The United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva agreed Friday to establish a commission of inquiry to look into human rights violations in Burundi.
The decision of the council, made up of 47 U.N. member states that include Burundi, follows this week’s urgent assessment of a September 20 report on Burundi alleging a pattern of gross human rights violations that may amount to crimes against humanity.
Willy Nyamitwe, a media spokesman for Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza, said 19 nations voted for the European Union-backed resolution and seven voted against, with 21 abstentions. Burundi objected to the resolution, with Russia among the dissenting voices and Venezuela questioning the right to interfere in the affairs of a sovereign nation, Nyamitwe said.
The United Nations Independent Investigation in Burundi (UNIIB) report detailed evidence of “hundreds of cases of summary executions, targeted assassinations, arbitrary detention, torture and sexual violence,” committed by the Government of Burundi or those complicit with it.
Large-scale executions by security forces appear to target those opposed to Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza. A former National Defence Force senior officer confirmed the existence of lists of people to be eliminated by security forces, the report said, adding weight to U.N. concerns that the deteriorating situation in Burundi may escalate into civil war and genocide with the potential to spill into neighboring countries.
The UNIIB investigators also asked the Human Rights Council to reconsider Burundi’s membership, given the repressive regime’s “blanket denial” of human rights violations and an impunity described as endemic.
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