UN rights council orders probe into Burundi abuses

17th December 2015, Comments 0 comments

The UN's top rights body agreed Thursday to send investigators to Burundi to probe widespread abuses there amid warnings the country is sliding towards civil war and risks Rwanda-style "atrocity crimes".

The UN Human Rights Council in Geneva asked UN rights chief Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein "to urgently organise and dispatch on the most expeditious basis possible a mission by independent existing experts."

At the start of the special council session on the spiralling violence in Burundi, Zeid had warned the country was "on the very cusp of civil war", insisting "the situation needs urgent, concerted, decisive attention from the international community."

Adama Dieng, a UN adviser for the prevention of genocide, meanwhile warned the council that Burundi "appears to be on the verge of a descent into violence that could escalate into atrocity crimes."

The warnings of a risk of looming ethnic bloodshed came as the 54-member African Union said the continent "will not allow another genocide to take place on its soil," a reference to the horror in Rwanda in 1994.

Thursday's resolution, tabled by the United States and passed by consensus, expressed "deep concern about recent extrajudicial killings and attempted killings."

It called on the Burundian authorities "to allow or to conduct thorough and independent investigations of all such incidents, ensuring that all perpetrators of extrajudicial killings be brought to justice."

The text said Zeid's investigative team should probe "violations and abuses of human rights with a view to preventing further deterioration of the human rights situation," and asked it to provide the council with an oral update of its findings next March.

The experts should provide a full report to the council during next year's September session, it said.

Burundi's crisis began in April when President Pierre Nkurunziza announced his intention to run for a controversial third term, which he went on to win in July.

At least 400 people have died in violence and more than 220,000 have fled the country of around 11 million since the crisis began, according to UN figures.

Last Friday saw the country's worst violence in months, with the government saying 87 people were killed in a single day.

Zeid however stressed that other sources said the death toll was "considerably higher," and alleged that a number of young men had been pulled from their homes and executed.

© 2015 AFP

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