15, June 2017
The United Nations says the government of the African country of Burundi is condoning the torture and killing of its opponents security forces and government-allied militia. Investigators said state security agencies and the ruling party’s youth wing the Imbonerakure are continuously engaged in torture, rape, disappearances and murder of opponents.
Those crimes are fueled by hate speech” from government officials, the UN Commission of Inquiry on Burundi said in a briefing to the Human Rights Council in Geneva on Thursday. The investigators said they recorded a “feeling of deep and widespread fear” in the hundreds of testimonies gathered from people who had fled to neighboring countries. “Today we can say that our initial fears concerning the scope and gravity of human rights violations and abuses in Burundi since April 2015 have been confirmed,” they said.
The investigators said they were struck by the cruelty and brutality of the perpetrators. “We most specifically gathered a number of testimonies alleging the use, during torture sessions, of clubs, riffle butts, bayonets, iron bars, metal chains or electric cables, resulting in some cases in the breaking of bones of the victim or making them lose consciousness.
“Long needles stuck into victims’ bodies or unidentified products injected into them; nails ripped out with pliers; burns; and many abuses inflicted on male detainees’ genital organs,” they added. Fatsah Ouguergouz, chairman of the UN commission, said a woman in her fifties was raped by four members allegedly belonging to the Imbonerakure and wearing police uniforms, as a punishment for her children belonging to an opposition party.
The government, which has denied entry to Burundi to the UN officials investigating the allegations, rejected the charges. “We do not accept the content of this report,” said the country’s human rights minister Martin Nivyabandi, claiming the aim of the UN investigators was to discredit the country’s officials.
Burundi was thrown into a political crisis in April 2015 when President Pierre Nkurunziza decided to run for a third term that his opponents said was unconstitutional. Since then at least 500 people have been killed while over 400,000 have fled the country. The UN’s Commission of Inquiry on Burundi was established in September 2016 with the aim of investigating the alleged violations of international humanitarian law and crimes against humanity. The commission’s final report is due to be presented to the Human Rights Council in September.