15 June 2017 A United Nations-appointed panel of experts investigating human rights violations in Burundi today released the latest findings of their probe, noting that their initial fears concerning the scope and gravity of these abuses since April 2015 have been confirmed.
“We were struck in our investigations by the feeling of deep and widespread fear running through the testimonies we gathered,” Fatsah Ouguergouz, Reine Alapini Gansou and Françoise Hampson, members of the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi, during the presentation of their second oral briefing to the UN Human Rights Council.
The Inquiry experts said that these violations include extrajudicial executions, acts of torture and other inhuman and degrading treatment, sexual and gender-based violence, arbitrary arrests and detention and enforced disappearances, often accompanied by demands for large ransoms from families in exchange for promises to release detainees or to find those who have disappeared.
Many of these violations have been committed by members of the National Intelligence Service and the police, sometimes assisted by members of the youth league of the ruling party, the Imbonerakure, they added.
Despite the lack of access to the country and the Burundian Government's lack of cooperation, the Commission interviewed many Burundians in exile and visited Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Kenya, among other countries.
Since the beginning of its investigation, it has collected more than 470 testimonies of human rights violations allegedly committed in Burundi since April 2015.
“We were struck by the particularly cruel and brutal nature of the violations described to us,” the Commission members stated, citing testimonies alleging the use, during torture sessions, of clubs, rifle butts, bayonets, iron bars, metal chains and electric cables.
Testimonies also cited 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.
“In several cases, acts of torture and ill-treatment were accompanied by violent insults and death threats, including of an ethnic nature,” they said.
The Commission has also documented cases of sexual violence, particularly against female relatives of government opponents, especially by people believed to be Imbonerakure.
The Commission will present its final report at the thirty-sixth session of the Human Rights Council in September 2017.
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