Appeal to stop "quashing" demonstrators' rights in Burundi

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These Burundians in Rwanda’s Bugesera reception centre fled across the border to escape from pre-election violence. © UNHCR/S.Masengesho

Burundian authorities faced serious criticism on Friday for a series of alleged rights violations including the use of live ammunition against protesters.

The reaction from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) follows reports of state-sponsored beatings and people being forced to sleep standing up while in detention.

OHCHR said that hundreds of people have been detained since last Sunday following protests at news that incumbent President Nkurunziza is to run for a third term.

Stephanie Coutrix has more.

The spokesperson for the UN human rights office Rupert Colville said there was deep concern at the Burundian authorities attempts "to curtail" people's right to freedom of expression and assembly.

"The reported use of live ammunition by intelligence and security forces during protests is particularly alarming and we call on the authorities to ensure the space necessary for free and fair elections."

The UN spokesperson cited reports of 400 people being held in conditions so crowded that they had no option but to sleep standing up.

With the election campaign due to begin in nine days, the UN official said the authorities needed to allow a "free and fair space" for it to take place.

In addition, Mr Colville said that shutting radio stations would "not succeed in silencing the protesters".

Meanwhile, the UN children's agency UNICEF   appealed to the authorities to protect children caught up in the protests.

And the refugee agency UNHCR said that people were continuing to flee to neighbouring countries, including Rwanda, where 26,000 Burundians are now sheltering.

Stephanie Coutrix, United Nations.

Duration: 1’10″

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