U.S. Statement as delivered by Jason Mack
Human Rights Council 36th Session
Geneva, September 29, 2017
The United States is extremely concerned by the serious human rights violations and abuses in Burundi, as well as the continued violence. Burundi’s persistent refusal to cooperate with the United Nations Commission of Inquiry created just one year ago and with the Office of the High Commissioner located in Burundi have demonstrated a consistent disdain for the United Nations and this Council, undermining this Council’s efforts to address the continuously deteriorating situation there. This Council must maintain its resolve to act on Burundi.
Just days ago, when Burundi finally agreed to engage members of this Council in discussions for the first time, the Burundian Ambassador portrayed a rosy picture of his country with the clear goal of ending the Commission of Inquiry, which he repeated again today. Yet that Commission of Inquiry has gathered and is continuing to gather valuable information that sheds light on serious human rights violations and abuses, including some violations by Burundian officials, which the Commission found “reasonable grounds to believe” “constitute crime against humanity”. Not only are extrajudicial killings, torture, arbitrary detention, enforced disappearances, and sexual violence continuing to occur in Burundi, but approximately four percent of the Burundian population are now refugees according to the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees. The voices of these refugees are essential and can best be heard and documented by a Commission of Inquiry.
Don’t be confused by Burundi’s last minute engagement, which is solely to put an end to ongoing investigations. They too have seen the value of the Commission of Inquiry’s work, even though the Commission’s members have been refused entry to the country. That is why Burundi agreed to the less than robust work plan set forth in the disappointing resolution yesterday. The people of Burundi deserve better.
If Burundi is genuinely interested in engaging with this Council – not just going through the motions as it has done during the last few days – Burundi should demonstrate that desire with actions. Allow the current Commission of Inquiry to have access to Burundi. Let the members of the Commission see for themselves that the violations and serious abuses are no longer continuing. Speak with the Commissioners so that they can hear the Government’s perspective directly. But don’t put an end to investigations by the Commission based on nominal engagement, instead of genuine cooperation.
The Human Rights Council’s credibility will suffer if we do not maintain the Commission of Inquiry mechanism that we created with significant support last year. This is why the United States strongly supports the EU proposal, will vote Yes, and urges you to vote yes as well.