Perpetrators of recent killings must be brought to justice, UN tells Burundi

Victims of a massacre carried out in a bar in the Burundian town of Gatumba on 18 September 2011

23 September 2011 – Burundi, one of the first States targeted by the United Nations Peacebuilding Commission that seeks to prevent post-conflict countries from relapsing back into violence, today said a massacre perpetrated there earlier this week transmits a false image of the nation’s true situation.

Armed men killed at least 36 people in a popular bar last Sunday in Gatumba, just west of the capital, Bujumbura. No one has yet claimed responsibility for the attack.

“This act, even if it calls for the vigilance of each and every one, should not be taken as the current image of our country,” President Pierre Nkurunziza told the General Assembly, noting that the local population is cooperating fully in the inquiry, which has already made some progress. “It must be considered as an act of terrorism isolated from the overall context of peace.”

The UN maintains an office in Burundi (BNUB) to assist Government efforts towards peace and stability in the small Central African country, where hundreds of thousands of people have perished in largely inter-ethnic fighting between Hutus and Tutsis that erupted even before it gained independence from Belgium in 1962.

Earlier today the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) called on the Government to ensure that the perpetrators of the Gatumba massacre are brought to justice and to engage in national dialogue to avoid a further escalation of tension and violence.

“We are concerned about the increasing level of violence in Burundi,” said OHCHR spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani in Geneva.

“This massacre occurred in a context of increased tension marked by a series of extrajudicial killings that appeared to be mainly aimed at activists of the opposition National Liberation Front.”

She noted that the Government, which immediately condemned the killings, had set up a commission of inquiry, but added: “Given that other commissions of inquiry set up to investigate past killings have so far yielded no prosecutions, we encourage the Government to ensure prompt and impartial investigations of all human rights violations.”

OHCHR called on the Government to engage in a national dialogue with all parties to avoid a further escalation of tension and violence, and urged all parties to refrain from reprisal attacks.

“The fight against past impunity is in this context essential,” Ms. Shamdasani said.

Mr. Nkurunziza, who noted that the 2010 elections were the first time in Burundi’s history that one democratically elected government was peacefully replaced by another, discussed his country’s efforts towards peace consolidation in a separate meeting with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, including institutional reforms, the transitional justice process and security.

Mr. Ban highlighted the need for stability in both the political and security fields as well as institutional reforms to attract prospective investors, and pledged continued UN support.


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