Burundi moves to quit UN human rights council

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Prisoners' human rights in Burundi

By AFP

Burundi threatened Friday to quit the UN Human Rights Council over perceived “politicisation” following a report pointing to crimes against humanity in the country.

A presidential source made the warning as a government delegation arrived in Geneva, to make a presentation on Monday, following the publication last month of a UN report into human rights in the landlocked east African nation.

The UN Commission of Inquiry on Burundi reported that there were “reasonable grounds to believe” the Burundi government was committing crimes against humanity, warning these and other serious rights violations were continuing unabated, in part due to hate speech by President Pierre Nkurunziza.

UN investigators found many violations were committed by the intelligence services, police and army as well as the ruling party’s Imbonerakure youth wing.

Burundi has rejected the findings.

Presidential spokesman Willy Nyamitwe said Friday the delegation led by minister for human rights Martin Nivyabandi would meet newly-appointed UN rights head and former Chilean president Michelle Bachelet.

“The delegation… intends to meet with the new high commissioner and we are expecting things to progress more positively than previously because first of all she is an experienced former head of state who understands well state concerns and a lady has more humanity in her than a man,” Nyamitwe said.

He added that Burundi “expects much” from the talks.

“Otherwise, if things do not change and if the human rights council continues to be politicised excessively then Burundi reserves the right to quit the council.”

Last year the UN body elected to send, with the support of its African working group and with Burundi’s support, three experts to the country to “work in cooperation” with the government on bringing to justice human rights abusers.

But this week the UNHCR said the trio were unable to visit the east African nation as the authorities had cancelled their visas in April just three weeks before they were due to visit. Nyamitwe has insisted they were “mercenaries” following a “Western Agenda.”

Burundi plunged into crisis in 2015 after Nkurunziza sought a fiercely contested third term in office that his opponents said was unconstitutional.

Turmoil since then has killed at least 1,200 people, and has forced 400,000 to flee their homes, triggering an investigation by the International Criminal Court, which Burundi last year became the first nation to leave.

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