Rights group calls for probe into Burundi killings

Deadly Burundi protests after president seeks third term

United States-based Human Rights Watch has called for a serious and independent inquiry into the latest violence in Burundi that left at least 87 people dead.

“This is by far the most serious incident, with the highest number of victims, since the start of the crisis in April,” Carina Tertsakian, HRW’s researcher for Burundi, said in a statement.

“A serious, independent investigation is urgently needed to find out the exact circumstances under which these people were killed.”

Burundi’s army said 79 “enemies” and eight soldiers were killed on Friday during the bloodiest day in months of unrest. It left the streets of Bujumbura strewn with bodies.

The violence began with coordinated attacks by unidentified gunmen on three military installations, which triggered a fierce riposte from security forces.

The fighting was the worst outbreak since a failed May coup, sparked by President Pierre Nkurunziza’s bid for a third term in office, which he later won in disputed elections in July.

HRW said foreign experts should help conduct the investigations into the killings.

Several witnesses described police officers and army going door-to-door in opposition strongholds in Bujumbura, dragging out young men and executing them.

Colonel Gaspard Baratuza, the army spokesman, said on Saturday that those killed were either enemies of the state, soldiers or police officers.

HRW criticised the police and local authorities for removing bodies from the scene before any investigations could be carried out.

It said the attacks on military sites were serious and the government had a responsibility to restore law and order.

“However, going out and shooting people in residential neighbourhoods appears entirely unjustified, and the members of the security forces responsible should be held to account,” it warned.

United Nations figures released before Friday’s violence showed at least 240 people had been killed and more than 200,000 had fled to neighbouring countries or abroad since May, raising fears of a return to civil war, a decade after the end of a 1993-2006 conflict between rebels from the Hutu majority and an army dominated by minority Tutsis.

Some 300,000 people were killed in the war, which began a year before the genocide of mostly Tutsis in neighbouring Rwanda.