Burundi

Session reviewed: 29th session of the Universal Periodic Review
Date reviewed: January 18, 2018

Recommendation

Thank you, Mr. President.

Canada thanks Burundi for its presentation today. Burundi’s human rights record continues to be of utmost concern and to fall far short of what is expected of a member of this Council. Everyone in Burundi, including human rights defenders, should be able to fully exercise their freedoms of expression, association and assembly, and have confidence that impunity for grave crimes will cease to prevail.

Canada recommends that Burundi:

  1. Fulfill its obligation to cooperate with the International Criminal Court’s investigation.
  2. Ensure the safety and respect the independence of all media and civil society organizations, including by repealing all restrictive measures that have been adopted since April 2015.
  3. Actively promote gender equality, prevent sexual and gender-based violence, and raise awareness of LGBTI issues, including by strengthening the related legislative framework.
  4. Accede to the First Optional Protocol of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Canada encourages Burundi to conclude its host agreement with the OHCHR so that its personnel can work in safety and without obstruction.

Background

According to UPR Info, a non-profit non-governmental organization (NGO) that tracks the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process, in the first two cycles of the UPR, Burundi received 278 recommendations, of which 240 were accepted (an acceptance rate of about 87%). Canada’s previous recommendations to Burundi were related to issues of post-conflict justice, the exercise of the fundamental freedoms, as well as the rights of LGBTI persons.

In April 2015, President Nkurunziza’s announcement that he would run for a third term, deemed to be unconstitutional and in contravention of the August 2000 Arusha Agreement by large sections of Burundian civil society and political opposition, led to a severe political crisis. The crisis was marked by a violent and brutal limitation of the freedoms of expression, association, and assembly. Reports from Burundian civil society, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, as well as the final report of the UN Independent Investigation on Burundi, found that the population was subjected to exactions such as arbitrary arrest and detention, torture, extrajudicial killings, as well as sexual and gender-based violence.

In its report to the 36th Session of the UN Human Rights Council, the Commission of Inquiry stated that it had solid grounds to believe that crimes against humanity had been committed and recommended further investigation. Since the Second Cycle, the little progress that Burundi may have achieved has not only been lost but, on the contrary, has been replaced by an alarming deterioration.

Burundian authorities have not been cooperating with the human rights monitoring mechanisms mandated by the international community (including the UN Human Rights Council’s Commission of Inquiry and the International Criminal Court’s investigation), and there are indications that the independence of its national human rights commission is compromised, leaving Burundian citizens with few options through which to raise their human rights concerns directly with competent national and international authorities.

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