UN warns of ‘rapidly worsening’ human rights situation in Burundi
UN warns of ‘rapidly worsening’ human rights situation in Burundi

[JURIST] At a press conference on Friday, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights [official website] shared concerns [press release] over the “rapidly worsening security and human rights situation in Burundi,” noting that 198 people have been killed in the nation since April, with 63 of those deaths coming in the last three weeks. UN spokesman Rupert Colville specifically described last week’s executions of well-known cameraman Christophe Nkezabahizi, his wife and two children, International Organization of Migration [official website] staffer Evariste Mbonihankuye and four others. The executions were apparently triggered by an attack by an unidentified youth on three government police officers in the same neighborhood. Colville called for the attorney general of Burundi to investigate the incident, and requested “the authorities to issue clear instructions to all members of their security forces that acts such as this will be punished with the full force of the law.”

Burundi has faced unrest since President Pierre Nkurunziza announced his decision to seek a third term in April. Late last month, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein expressed concern [JURIST report] about “an alarming upsurge in arrests, detention and killings” that have been occurring in Burundi since the beginning of September. Zeid said that many bodies have been found bound with their hands behind their back in the streets of Bujumbura with marks that appear to be consistent with torture. The unrest intensified in May after the Constitutional Court ruled that he could seek a third term [JURIST report] in office without violating the country’s constitution, which states that presidents shall be universally elected into office for a term of five years and can renew the term once. Those opposing Nkurunziza’s bid for a third presidential term claimed that both the constitution and the Arusha peace deal that ended the 2005 civil war state that no one should be president for more than 10 years. Those backing Nkurunziza claimed that this does not apply to him since he was not voted in for his first term but selected by lawmakers. Nkurunziza was elected to a third term [JURIST report] in July, leading to public protest and international criticism.