By Irene Gaitirira
Published September 5, 2017
Crime against humanity has been committed and continue to be committed in Burundi since April 2015.
A report by a Commission of Inquiry from the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) that calls on International Criminal Court to investigate ‘crimes against humanity’ in the central African country says the crime includes extrajudicial execution; arbitrary arrest and detention; torture; sexual violence; cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment; and enforced disappearance.
“We were struck by the scale and the brutality of the violations. We also noted a lack of will on the part of the Burundian authorities to fight against impunity and guarantee the independence of the judiciary. As a result, there is a strong likelihood that the perpetrators of these crimes will remain unpunished,” said Fatsah Ouguergouz, President of the Commission of Inquiry. Among the alleged perpetrators are high level officials of the National Intelligence Services and the national police force, military officials, and members of the youth league of the ruling party, known as Imbonerakure.
The conclusions presented by the three Commissioners are the result of several months of investigations and interviews with more than 500 witnesses, including many Burundians living abroad as refugees and others who remain in Burundi, often at risk to their lives.
Saying the commission gathered testimonies in difficult conditions, Françoise Hampson, one of the three members of the Commission, noted, “There is a climate of pervasive fear in Burundi. Victims have been threatened, even in exile. This meant that the Commission had to be extremely careful to ensure that their testimonies could not be used to endanger them.”
The commission says Burundian authorities not only refused to cooperate but did not grant permission to the commissioners to travel to the country.
“We deeply regret the Burundian government’s lack of cooperation, which, among other things, made it difficult for us to document human rights abuses committed by armed opposition groups. This is all the more regrettable given that Burundi, as a member of the Human Rights Council, has an obligation to cooperate with mechanisms set up by the Council,” said Reine Alapini Gansou, a member of the Commission.
The Commission has asked the Burundian authorities to ‘immediately put a stop to serious human rights violations by state agents and Imbonerakure over whom the State exercises control’.
In view of the impunity protecting the perpetrators of these violations, the Commission is asking the International Criminal Court to open an investigation into the crimes committed in Burundi as soon as possible.