Ambassador Harper: HRC Special Session on Burundi – Now is the Time to Stand Against Violence

SpecialSessionHuman Rights Council Special Session on Burundi

Statement by Ambassador Keith Harper
U.S. Representative to the United Nations Human Rights Council

Geneva – December 17, 2015

Thank you, Mr. President. The United States is pleased to be part of the overwhelming support for calling the Special Session today. We wholeheartedly cosponsor the resolution before us.

The United States is deeply alarmed by the spiraling violence in Burundi perpetrated or directed by government and non-government actors alike. President Nkurunziza’s pursuit of a third term in office has led to a humanitarian, economic, and security crisis, which in turn has resulted in more than 200,000 Burundians fleeing for neighboring countries. The United States joins the Council today for this important session because we strongly believe that the international community must use all of the tools available to push for an immediate end to the cycle of violence perpetrated by both the security forces and elements of the armed opposition. Now is the time to begin an internationally-mediated dialogue. We also strongly support OHCHR’s continued presence in Bujumbura, particularly its offices in the field, and urge the international community to continue to support its operations.

Increasing government repression of civil liberties and recent dangerous and divisive rhetoric by government officials have contributed to the climate of fear in Burundi. We continue to see large numbers of arbitrary arrests of individuals solely based on their political views. On December 12, rebel insurgents initiated attacks on military installations, exacerbating an increasingly unstable situation. In response, Burundian security forces reportedly rounded up dozens of men, some of whom later were found dead on the streets of Bujumbura. We condemn the attacks on the military installations. We call for an immediate, independent investigation into the civilian deaths and for the Government of Burundi to publicly reject excessive use of force. We have also heard deeply disturbing statements from Burundi President Nkurunziza and President of the Senate Ndikuriyo in recent weeks that evoke the horrors of previous episodes of mass violence in Burundi. We urge the Government and other parties to refrain from any statements or actions that could heighten tensions in Burundi.

Amid the calamity, we see bravery and hope in Burundi. Mr. Pierre Claver Mbonipa, who joins us for this session today, is a shining example. He and other courageous human rights defenders, such as Marguerite Barankitse who is also here today, are under attack in Burundi. We condemn the killings of Pierre’s son, Mr. Welly Nzitonda, and of his son-in-law, Pascal Nishirimana. These attacks must stop immediately. We urge Burundian authorities to conduct a thorough and independent investigation of these and other crimes, and to bring the perpetrators to justice.

The United States is committed to the goal of restoring peace and stability in Burundi. We call upon all parties in Burundi to reject unlawful violence. We believe that there is a clear path for Burundi’s leaders to avoid further violence and reach a political solution to the current crisis. Ordinary Burundians deserve to live in peace, without constant fear for their own lives or those of their children. It is time for all sides in Burundi to look beyond their own gain and demonstrate strength and leadership by engaging in an internationally-mediated dialogue outside Burundi. Now is the time to stand against violence and begin the hard work of uniting.

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