Security Council briefed on human rights deterioration in Burundi

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Security Council chamber. UN File Photo/Evan Schneider

The decision by Burundi's president to run for a third term has undermined a decade of progress in building democratic institutions and a sense of national unity, the UN human rights chief told the Security Council on Thursday.

Speaking from Geneva, High Commissioner Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein expressed concern about the deterioration of human rights in the African country.

Since the President's announcement in April, more than 140,000 Burundians have fled to neighbouring countries to escape political violence.

Dianne Penn reports.

The UN Human Rights chief said Burundians fear their country is on the brink of what he called "devastating violence."

Opposition members, activists and journalists have been targeted for intimidation and other harassment, while peaceful protests have been met with lethal force.

He added that the UN human rights office in the country has also documented dozens of killings of demonstrators and human rights defenders by militia members and the security forces.

"The crisis arising from President Pierre Nkurunziza’s decision to run for a third term in office has undermined a decade of steady progress in building democratic institutions, and precious gains in the sense of a common national community. Peaceful protests have been met with unwarranted use of force, including lethal force, in violation of Burundi’s obligation under national and international law to guarantee the right to freedom of assembly. Demonstrators have been imprisoned and subjected to torture and ill-treatment. We have also received reports of extrajudicial killings. To date these violations have not been investigated, prosecuted or sanctioned.”

The Burundi presidential election is set for next week.

Local and parliamentary elections were held at the end of June despite pleas from the international community, including the UN Secretary-General.

Dianne Penn, United Nations.

Duration: 1’39″

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