The Report of the UN Commission of Inquiry on Burundi, released Wednesday, details human rights violations committed in Burundi since their last report in 2018. These violations include some international crimes and are mainly carried out by members of the youth league of the ruling party called the Imbonerakure.
A political and economic crisis has been occurring in Burundi for more than four years. These human rights violations are political in nature and are intensifying leading up to the 2020 presidential and legislative elections.
The Commission called for “the greatest vigilance” in the situation leading up to the elections.
The Commission has previously sought to meet with Burundian authorities to compile a list of human rights indicators. The communications went unanswered and the members of the Commission were declared personae non gratae in Burundi.
Therefore, the Commission interviewed more than 300 victims, witnesses and others either remotely or in surrounding countries; this is in addition to the 1,000 testimonies already collected. No special working group of the UN has been able to visit the country since December 2014. In March 2019 Burundi closed its UN Human Rights Office.
While Burundi withdrew from the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court in October 2017, they are still liable for happenings while they were party to the treaty.
The humanitarian crisis in Burundi has been called “the world’s most underfinanced emergency.” 1.77 million people need humanitarian assistance and 1.7 million people have food insecurity.
The human rights violations committed have political aims and infringe on “the right to life, security and liberty, the right not to be subjected to torture or ill-treatment.”
Opponents of the ruling party, the National Council for the Defense of Democracy–Forces for the Defense of Democracy (CNDD-FDD), continue to be the subjects of these violations.
The Imbonerakure work alone or in the presence of the police, National Intelligence Service, or local authorities. “The Burundian State is directly responsible for [the Imbonerakure’s] actions” when acting with state agents.
Human rights violations alleged by the report include violations of the right to life. Bodies are regularly found bearing signs of violent death and families fear reprisals if they seek information on the death. There have been numerous other disappearances and summary executions of opponents of the CNDD-FDD or those who simply refuse to join.
There has been torture and ill-treatment by the Imbonerakure acting with state officials. People were beaten with sticks, sharp objects, and, in several cases, raped. There is overcrowding, a lack of food, and insufficient access to water and healthcare in prisons.
Sexual violence against mostly women and girls most often takes the form of gang rape by the Imbonerakure. This is often accompanied by threats to kill family members if the victim reports or resists the attack. Sometimes the head of the household is also abducted or executed. Additionally, there has been violence applied to the genital area or forced nudity against men in the country’s prisons.
Any freedom of expression that is not in line with national propaganda is not tolerated and people continue to be forced to join the CNDD-FDD. Barriers around the country restrict travel unless one can show a receipt of contribution to the 2020 elections. Also, students who have not contributed are not allowed to attend class in several schools.
The Commission stated that the environment in Burundi is conductive to atrocity crimes and a lack of any punishment for human rights violations only encourages more.