Interactive Dialogue with Commission of Inquiry on Burundi

Statement by the United States of America as delivered by Jason Mack

Human Rights Council 36th Session
Geneva, September 19, 2017

We thank the Commission.  We remain concerned by the Government’s lack of cooperation with the Burundi office of the High Commission for Human Rights, and we commend the Commission for undertaking nearly 500 interviews under challenging circumstances.

We condemn the September 13 break-in by armed men into the Burundi office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.  This incident should be fully investigated, and those responsible should be held accountable.  We call on the GOB to ensure that OHCHR can conduct its work free from interference or intimidation.

We are gravely concerned by the Commission’s finding that there are reasonable grounds to believe crimes against humanity have been committed and that the government continues to engage in extrajudicial killings, torture, arbitrary detention, enforced disappearances, and sexual violence.

We are deeply troubled by reports that the Burundian government continues to use Imbonerakure, the youth league of the ruling party, to kill, torture, and intimidate alleged members of the political opposition and Burundian citizens.  Due to the government’s lack of cooperation, we regret that the Commission was unable to investigate reports concerning attacks by armed opposition elements.

We are concerned by the limitations on political space for members of the opposition, independent media, and civil society.  A credible electoral process cannot take place without steps to protect the rights to freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly, and association.  Constitutional amendments reversing provisions of the Arusha Agreement, including presidential term limits, will exacerbate tensions and instability.

We are deeply troubled by the Commission’s assertion that the Government has been unwilling to hold those responsible for human rights violations and abuses accountable.  We call on all Burundians to disavow categorically the use of violence and engage constructively in dialogue.  We are committed to supporting efforts to break the cycle of violence in Burundi.

Commission Members:  How do you envision your work over the next year given the lack of cooperation from the government?  [How can member states support your work beyond renewing your mandate?]