Burundi’s antagonism towards United Nations investigators and the UN human rights agency has spanned the years since President Pierre Nkurunziza insisted on a third term in 2015, touching off a political and humanitarian crisis in the small east-central African nation.
Now the government has forced the closure of the UN Human Rights Office in Burundi, which shut down at the end of February. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said the office had been there since 1995, and it was with deep regret that the UN complied while ending a 23-year presence.
“Our reports on the human rights situation in Burundi have always been developed in a constructive spirit, intended to support the promotion and protection of human rights in the country,” Bachelet said. “But I am disappointed by Burundi’s lack of cooperation in recent years with UN human rights mechanisms – which even went so far as to include threats to prosecute members of the independent international Commission of Inquiry established by the UN Human Rights Council.”
Burundi’s government ended all cooperation with the UN office following an October 2016 report from UN human rights investigators, and in December 2018 insisted the UN close its office because it was no longer needed. The government said it had mechanisms in place to protect human rights, though local and international NGOs continued to describe violations.
Bachelet praised the work of Burundian human rights defenders, many of whom have been arrested or exiled. “Even as our office in Burundi closes, we will continue to explore other ways to work to shed light on human rights concerns and support the advocacy, promotion and protection of human rights in the country,” she said.
Image: CNDD-FDD file