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Africa

Burundi provides no answers to UN Committee against Torture

media People gather around the body of a man shot dead in the Nyakabiga neighbourhood of Bujumbura, 21 July 2015. AFP Photo/Carl de Souza

Burundi’s government has provided “no substantial answers” to the UN Committee against Torture over concerns about summary executions, political assassinations, arbitrary arrests and torture. The committee is carrying out a special review of Burundi following a crisis in the country sparked by the controversial third term of President Pierre Nkurunziza.

“Actually at the moment the progress is very limited,” Alessio Bruni, one of the committee’s 10 independent experts, told RFI on Friday.

Burundi’s government engaged with the committee at the end of July, according to Bruni, but “decided to interrupt its engagement”. The independent expert said that after attending one session on 28 July the government did not show up the following day for another scheduled meeting.

The UN Committee against Torture is trying to establish what the government of Burundi has done to investigate concerns and how it intends to prevent the same things from happening in the future.

“On these points, practically, they’ve submitted nothing, their special report is just a list of legislative measures that they have in the country,” said Bruni, a human rights expert. “Just some vague reference to some public officials punished, without giving any details about it - and that’s it, there’s nothing else,” he added, speaking from Geneva.

The committee’s observations have taken into account reports from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights as well as international human rights groups and Burundian civil society groups. For example, it notes 348 killings carried out by security forces between April 2015 and April 2016.

None of the recommendations or requests for investigation have been followed-up, according to Bruni. “All the questions raised by the committee were practically not answered,” he said.

In its observations the committee had urged the Burundian authorities to “exercise rigorous control of security forces, besides other people, to prevent extrajudicial executions”. On this question, Bruni said there was one paragraph provided by the government that referred to “some members of the intelligence services, who have been punished and put in jail”. However, as evidence of this the government said, “the committee can trust us - that we apply the law”, Bruni said.

It was the same for other recommendations, such as assuring the families of victims that they could have autopsies carried out on the bodies of their loved ones and if “reasonably possible” obtain the body after the end of any inquiry. When asked about whether the government had provided any detail on this matter, Bruni said they had not given any answer.

Other recommendations concern reported mass graves, disappearance of political opponents and violence perpetrated by the Imbonerakure, the youth wing of the ruling party.

“We will follow up the situation, the government will receive our concerns and recommendations, and there is a follow-up procedure,” said Bruni.

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