Clustered Interactive Dialogue with the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi and the Report of the High Commissioner on Burundi

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

37th Session of the Human Rights Council
Geneva, March 13, 2018

Thank you, Madame Vice President.

The United States thanks the Commission of Inquiry for its work. In Burundi, where the situation remains grave, the Government and actors affiliated with it continue to commit serious human rights violations and abuses, some of which the Commission found provide reasonable grounds to believe may amount to crimes against humanity.

We are concerned that those responsible for these violations and abuses benefit from impunity.  The Government has the primary responsibility to protect and promote human rights in the country.  Its continued failure to meet its responsibilities, and its apparent culpability in violations and abuses of human rights, raise serious concerns with respect to Burundi’s international legal obligations.

Against this backdrop of continuing repression and political tension, the Government intends to hold a referendum to amend the country’s constitution.  The numerous reports of violence, intimidation, and harassment of those perceived to be opponents of the referendum demonstrate a continued closing of political space and undermine the enjoyment of Burundians’ rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, and association.

The Government’s persistent refusal to cooperate with the COI and its obstruction of the Office of the High Commissioner demonstrate its disdain for the UN, undermining the Council’s efforts to address the deteriorating situation.  We condemn any effort to threaten or incite violence against the Commission, OHCHR, human rights or humanitarian bodies, or members of civil society.  The United States reiterates this Council should be made up of members who are striving to improve their human rights practices.  It is deeply disturbing that Burundi is a member of this body, given the government’s appalling human rights record and its lack of willingness to cooperate with OHCHR or special procedures.

It is urgent the Government take steps to reengage with the international community, including the UN, to demonstrate it is serious in addressing the human rights issues that have been identified.

Commissioners: What steps should the Government take to rebuild trust so that Burundians in exile are confident they can return home in safety and contribute to economic, civic, and political activity?