GENEVA – A U.N. watchdog group reports gross violations of human rights, many of which could amount to crimes against humanity, continue unabated in Burundi despite a change in leadership. The Commission of Inquiry on Burundi, which was appointed four years ago, will submit its just launched final report to the U.N. Human Rights Council next week.
During the past four years, the three-member Panel has been the only independent international mechanism to document, monitor and report on human rights violations in Burundi. The panel is concerned that this oversight will disappear when it ends its mandate. It is urging continued international scrutiny of Burundi’s human rights record.
Hopes were raised conditions in the country might change for the better under the newly installed Government of Evariste Ndayishimiye, who was elected President following the death of former president Pierre Nkurunziza.
However, president of the Commission, Doudou Diene tells VOA people appointed to key positions in the government have been identified by the Commission, international NGOs and the European Union as having been responsible for human rights violations.
“It means that those who have been committing the violations are still in a position of power… The majority of the new authorities are from the military section of the country. So, which means that the military has the pre-eminent position. And, this is not certainly the best criteria for a democratic country,” he said.
The report notes relatively little political violence occurred in the lead-up to the country’s general election in May. Commission member Francoise Hampson attributes this largely to international scrutiny of the event. But, she says, this period of calm has ended.
“In recent weeks, there have continued to be killings. There have continued to be arbitrary detentions and there have continued to be disappearances. So, it is slightly surprisingly perhaps, it is continuing as it was even though the elections are finished and that is a matter of very grave concern,” she said.
Hampson calls this a missed opportunity. Because there has been a change of political leadership, she says it would have been easier for the new government to change direction for the better without losing face.
The commission’s final report is based on more than 1,500 testimonies collected since the start of its work, including more than 300 during the current term of office. The report has been sent to the government, who, as of Thursday had not responded.