This afternoon’s United Nations Security Council meeting on Burundi’s ongoing political and human rights crisis must include a clear and robust call on Burundian authorities to end the crisis, address serious human rights concerns and ensure people’s safety, Amnesty International said.
“Incendiary rhetoric from top officials is fuelling fears that the already tense situation in Burundi could spiral out of control, leading to mass killings,” said Sarah Jackson, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes region.
“Allowing independent human rights observers in, and protecting residents from further violence, are key ingredients to quelling the current unrest.”
Violence has continued in the capital, Bujumbura, with daily reports of extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests, torture and other ill-treatment. Nine men – including a UNDP employee – were reportedly killed in a shooting in a bar in the capital on Saturday. On Friday, the son of leading human rights defender Pierre Claver Mbonimpa was found dead after having been arrested by police.
African Union (AU) representatives will attend today’s Security Council meeting. The AU should accelerate its deployment of human rights observers, to fill the quota set by the Peace and Security Council decision of 17 October. There need to be as many human rights observers on the ground as possible as all efforts are made to end attacks on civil society and the media.
Hundreds of Burundians have died this year in unrest, which began in April with protests against President Pierre Nkurunziza’s plans to seek a third term in office. Residents are reported to be fleeing as the authorities conduct house-to-house searches in neighbourhoods of Bujumbura suspected to be opposition strongholds.
On 29 October 2015, the President of the Senate, Reverien Ndirukiyo, said that the police would soon go “to work”. He urged officials to identify people in their neighbourhoods who could be targeted by the police. The use of the phrase “to work” – “gukora” in Kirundi – is particularly disturbing as it was used to incite attacks during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.
On 2 November, President Pierre Nkurunziza issued a five-day ultimatum to “criminals” to lay down their arms, warning that they would otherwise be “punished in accordance with the anti-terrorist law” and treated as enemies of the nation.
He told the security forces they were “authorized to use all means at [their] disposal to find these weapons and re-establish security”.