On 17 December 2015, a Special Session of the Human Rights Council took place to address the deeply concerning deterioration of the human rights situation in Burundi.
The East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project (EHAHRDP), Protection International (PI) and CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation welcome the resolution adopted by consensus at the Human Rights Council during this Special Session, requesting that a mission composed of independent experts be urgently dispatched to investigate human rights violations.
“We have watched the human rights situation in Burundi severely worsen throughout 2015. The once vibrant and committed community of Burundian human rights defenders has been attacked so many times that human rights work is now perilously at risk of being eradicated,” said EHAHRDP, PI and CIVICUS.
“As it becomes increasingly dangerous for Burundian human rights defenders to remain in the country, it is timely for the international community to step in and send an expert mission to document the widespread human rights abuses taking place.”
Responsibility for some human rights violations remains unclear at times, and full and independent investigations need to be conducted to hold the perpetrators from all parties to account.
Amongst other comments made, the Burundian delegation, speaking as the concerned country, condemned the remarks of certain leading foreign figures who “…mask the reality of the situation in Burundi to influence the world and support a radical opposition who has decided to attack democratically elected institutions with a view to establishing a transitional government...”
The Burundian authorities have closed independent media and suspended civil society organisations, pending judicial investigations. The move has created a highly restrictive environment in which human rights defenders and civil society groups cannot work freely or safely.
On 17 December 2015, as the Special Session of the Human Rights Council was taking place in Geneva, Burundi was one of the 14 states to vote against a resolution on human rights defenders which was adopted by the UN General Assembly in New York.
Pierre Claver Mbonimpa addressed the President of the Council to share the plight of the Burundian people who live “in constant fear” and “watch powerlessly as grave and mass human rights violations take place, crimes that remain unpunished.” His statement highlighted the exceptionally difficult conditions faced by human rights defenders in Burundi, many of whom have been forced to flee the country and have seen their organisations closed.
Seven African States addressed the Council and all recognised an alarming situation. In its statement, Ghana referred to the words of Nelson Mandela who, in 1999, asked: “for how long shall innocent people of Burundi die at the hands of their own fellow citizens?” From 1999, Nelson Mandela was the chief facilitator in peace negotiations that brought an end to the country’s ethnic conflict.
EHAHRDP, PI and CIVICUS congratulate the African States that co-sponsored the resolution, including Kenya, Ghana, Senegal and the Central African Republic. However, it is regrettable that so few African States were involved in the US-led initiative to call for a Special Session.
Both Michael Addo, the Chairperson of the Coordination Committee of Special Procedures, and Adama Dieng, Under-Secretary-General and the Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, criticised the slow response of the international community to the crisis, despite attempts from Adama Dieng and two Special Rapporteurs to sound the alarm.
EHAHRDP published a report in February 2015 detailing a systematic crackdown on human rights defenders in 2014 and calling on the international community to take preventative action.
For more information, please contact:
Clementine de Montjoye, Advocacy & Research Officer, EHAHRDP:
Tom Gibson, PI Representative, DRC and Burundi, Protection International:
Tor Hodenfield, Policy and Advocacy Officer, CIVICUS: