U.N. condemns Burundi for threats against investigators

UN human rights spokesman Rupert Covlille.
UN human rights spokesman Rupert Covlille.

The United Nations human rights office on Tuesday rebuked threats made against its senior investigators by senior Burundi officials and by the Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte.

The agency accuses the Burundian government of denying its investigators entry into the East African country where it says mass killings have been carried out.

In April 2016, the International Criminal Court (ICC) announced that it had launched a “preliminary examination” of the situation in the country, where at the time more than 430 people had reportedly been killed.

The on-going process, which will then determine whether a full investigation should take place, focuses on “killing, imprisonment, torture, rape and other forms of sexual violence, as well as cases of enforced disappearances that have been allegedly committed since April 2015.”

President Pierre Nkurunziza in October 2016 signed a legislation calling for his country’s withdrawal from the ICC, thereafter sending a notification to the UN secretary-general.

Under the Rome Statute, actual withdrawal takes place a year after such notification.

The Burundi government rejected the commission and did not allow the investigators to enter the country.

Interviews were conducted in neighbouring countries, where hundreds of thousands of Burundians have fled since a political conflict erupted in April 2015.

The government is however adamant that the refugees should return home as it has restored security.

On September 1, the Burundi parliament announced that it would set up its own commission, made up of 12 lawmakers, to look into the UN commission’s findings.

The UN has also accused President Rodrigo Duterte of threatening to slap its agent if she investigated him.

“On Nov 9, Duterte threatened to slap UN special rapporteur Agnes Callamard if she investigates him for alleged extrajudicial killings,” human rights spokesman Rupert Covlille said.

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