UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said Tuesday that the UN human rights office in Burundi was closed down on February 28. The closure comes at the behest of the Burundi government, which has been refusing to cooperate with the UN’s mission for two years.
The office in Burundi has spent 23 years assisting the country on peace-building, security and justice reform. It was set up in the wake of human rights violations following the assassination of President Melchior Ndadaye in 1995.
The office assisted in the implementation of the Arusha Agreement, which helped to stabilize the country for many years. They also played a role in establishing a National Commission on Human Rights and legislative reforms that helped in the “emergence of strong civil society organizations.”
The Commissioner said that many of these human rights gains have been seriously jeopardized since 2015. In October 2016 the government suspended cooperation with the office in reaction to a UN report.
The lack of cooperation seriously hampered the ability of workers to look into the allegations of human rights violations that the office continues to receive. The government requested this closure because they assert that Burundi has made sufficient progress in protecting human rights themselves.
The Commissioner stated, “Even as our Office in Burundi closes, we will continue to explore other ways to work to shed light on human rights concerns and support the advocacy, promotion and protection of human rights in the country.”