UN human rights experts warn about severe repression of human rights defenders as well as the ban and provisional suspension of a number of civil society organizations in Burundi. Burundi Government denies the allegations.
The human rights experts draw the Government’s attention to the allegations concerning a significant increase in cases of enforced disappearances on the basis of unconfirmed reports of more than 60 cases in the last two months of 2016. “All reports of enforced disappearances must be investigated thoroughly and independently, and the perpetrators must be brought to justice,” the UN experts say, in a statement issued on 6 February.
Térence Ntahiraja, Assistant to and Spokesperson for the Home Affairs Ministry, says the reports of the UN and other organizations contain unverified and false information. “Their reports are not reliable. They contain more fabrications than the real information. They brought information from outside the country to tarnish the Burundi image. We are accustomed to hearing that”, he says.
The experts called on the Governmental to put an end to the climate of impunity currently prevailing in the country and to cooperate with the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi and with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in a positive and collaborative manner, as an essential step towards the ending of the major crisis that the country is facing.
Ntahiraja says Burundi respects the human rights; the proof is the recent release of over 2000 detainees thanks to the presidential pardon.
“NGOs’ activities must comply with the Government’s priorities”
Concerning the two bills adopted by the National Assembly of Burundi last December, local NGOs must have permission from the Interior Minister for any activity and the work of foreign ones must comply with the priorities determined by the Government. “The two bills were adopted to facilitate the supervision”, says Ntahiraja.
The UN experts say these moves are just the latest in a series of attacks on the rights to freedom of expression and association in Burundi.
“Disturbingly, these measures take particular aim at human rights defenders and independent civil society, and are being used to unduly obstruct and criminalize their work on broad and often fallacious grounds”, they say.
The assistant to and spokesperson for the Interior Ministry says many NGOs do not take into consideration the country’s projects. “It is clear that many activities of the NGOs do not comply with the priorities chosen by the Government. Then, there is a need to bring a serious supervision through the new legislation”, he says.
Burundi Government banned five civil society organizations in October 2016. In December the same year, it also barred two groups and four other organizations have also been temporarily suspended.