Burundi has effectively dismissed a United Nations (UN) team that the international body’s Human Rights Council had sent - with initial approval from the government - to investigate human rights abuses in the country.
Deputy Human Rights Commissioner Kate Gilmore told the UN Council that her office could not deliver a human rights report on Burundi because the government refused to cooperate with the team.
“It is a matter of concern that through its lack of cooperation Burundi has prevented implementation of this Council’s resolution and the mandated work of the group of experts,” she said.
But Burundian Ambassador Renovat Tabu said the departure of the UN team was being twisted to cast the government in a bad light.
“Burundi regrets… the way in which events have been twisted in order to imply there has not been full cooperation. Burundi is concerned by an unfair accusation which further entrenches the hostility which has been commonplace against Burundi for some time.”
Tabu said former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein had changed the team’s mission, an “irregularity,” which surprised Burundi’s migration services, effecting the decision to not award visas to members of the team.
Additionally, minister for human rights Martin Nivyabandi is scheduled to meet with newly appointed UN rights head and former Chilean president Michelle Bachelet.
Burundi has been plagued with violence since President Pierre Nkurunziza sought an unconstitutional third term in 2015. Clashes between security forces and rebels left hundreds dead and forced about half a million to flee the country.
The Government of Burundi is no stranger to unprecedented actions.
Authorities withdrew from the International Criminal Court, in October 2017, after the UN Commission of Inquiry requested that the court, similarly, launch an investigation into accusations of crimes against humanity. The charges were levied against the country by human rights organization and independent observers.
Last week, the Commission of Inquiry again stressed that crimes against humanity were still being committed in Burundi, a claim government officials have labeled “lies.”