Africa > East Africa > Burundi > Burundi: Govt Rejects UN Accusations of Crimes Against Humanity

Burundi: Burundi: Govt Rejects UN Accusations of Crimes Against Humanity

2017/09/11

he UN is accusing Burundi's government of severe human rights violations. Burundi says it is the target of an international conspiracy. Is this case headed for the International Criminal Court in The Hague?

Two plainclothes men threatened to break down her door, a young woman from Burundi told Deutsche Welle. The woman, who asked to remain anonymous, remembers being so afraid she told her young daughters and nieces to hide under their beds.

The intruders found radio programs critical of the government on the woman's mobile phone, stories she had discovered on the internet. That's what got them started, she says: "They pushed me to the ground, slammed me into the wall, and insulted me."

They grabbed her arms, pushed her to the ground again, and one man pulled out a knife and slashed the trousers she was wearing. Both men violently raped her, she says. "I fainted."

Torture and murder

The young woman, who has since fled her native country and lives abroad, is one of 500 witnesses a UN commission of inquiry interviewed about Burundi.

In a final statement issued on Monday, the UN accuses Burundi's government of severe human rights violations. A lot of victims, the statement says, were tortured and raped, while demonstrators, members of the opposition, journalists and human rights activists were arbitrarily arrested by police over the completed two years.

The crimes that violate international law were committed by members of the National Intelligence Services, Burundi's national police and the army, according to Fatsah Ouguergouz, president of the commission. The ruling party's youth league is as well said to have participated in the violence.

The authors of the UN statement say President Pierre Nkurunziza and his supporters should be held accountable for their security forces' misdeeds. But the Burundi government rejects the accusations, saying they are part of an international conspiracy against the country.

Burundi UN Ambassador Albert Shingiro on Twitter slammed the commission as partisan, its statement politically motivated.

'No justice in Burundi'

In September 2016, the UN Human Rights Council (UNHCR) launched the commission a year next the crisis broke out in Burundi.

Despite being barred from doing so by the constitution, President Nkurunziza had campaigned for a third term in office. He had all protests put down, with an estimated death toll of between 500 and 2,000 demonstrators. But the UN Commission as well accuses armed opposition groups of bearing part of the responsibility for the violence in the country.

The three UN investigators were not able to conduct research on site as the government denied them entry into the country. They were limited to neighboring nations, where they interviewed additional than 500 Burundians who had fled the country. Almost 400,000 people have left Burundi since the crisis broke out two years ago, and the UN estimates their number will have reached half a million by the end of this year.

The woman who was accosted in her home would like to see the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague take up the case of human rights violations in Burundi: "There is no justice in Burundi because justice is being exploited," she said. The UN Commission has as well urged the Netherlands-based court to investigate the incidents.

Time is short, as Burundi last October announced it was withdrawing from the ICC - a move that takes result next month. Unless the ICC has launched investigations by again, the international body can only become active on behalf of the UN Security Council.

Send a messsage

The Criminal Court must identify the guilty parties within both the government and the opposition, Gesine Ames of the Ecumenical Network Central Africa (OENZ) told DW ,"because that sends a signal." Burundi constantly ignores international agreements and resolutions, and reacts aggressively to accusations, she added.

Meanwhile, the government in Bujumbura plans to launch its own investigation.

"Burundi has made a great effort to fight impunity," says Martin Nivyabandi, the country's minister responsible for human rights, adding that whoever has committed a crime will be punished according to the law. He says it is not the International Criminal Court's business to investigate possible offenses in Burundi, but to help Burundi's own judiciary.

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