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UN Experts Reveal Worrying Human Rights Situation in Burundi

The UN independent experts on Tuesday said there is a lot of work to be done in terms of respect for human rights in Burundi.

"From March 1 to March 8, we have met various people and groups including government officials, civil society representatives, religious leaders, eyewitnesses and victims.

There is a great deal of work for the respect of human rights and we (experts) have a great deal of work," said Pablo de Greiff, one of the three experts after they concluded the first phase of their mission in the country.

According to him, there is still a long way to go for the respect of human rights in Burundi.

"During the first phase of our mission, government officials showed us their readiness to discuss with us, but at the same time, even if civil society organizations are intimidated, they are committed to working for the respect of human rights," said de Greiff.

He commended the wisdom stipulated in the 2000 Arusha Agreement on peace and reconciliation in Burundi which addresses impunity through the setting up of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Based on documented information from outside, the experts acknowledged that there were about 400 extrajudicial killings.

"According to eyewitnesses’ accounts, it seems clear that extrajudicial killings took place. The use of force outside of the law and strong allegations of torture and disappearances also took place and all this needs to be addressed," said Christof Heyns, another expert, member of the UN team.

Heyns commended the African Union (AU) for deciding to increase the number of monitors in Burundi, from 32 to 100.

He indicated that the first phase of the UN independent experts will be followed by the visit of nine human rights observers in April.

On March 21, one of the three UN independent experts will present the preliminary report to the UN Human Rights Council.

The three experts will come back in June or July and will issue a final report in September before the UN Human Rights Council.

The three UN independent experts include South African Christof Heyns, the UN special reporter on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Algerian Maya Sahli-Fadel, member of the African Commission on Human Rights and Peoples, and Pablo de Greiff, the UN special rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence.

By Robert Muriisa.

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