Repression is growing in Burundi, say rights experts

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A boy from Burundi who was forced to flee his home looks at his new surroundings in the Nyarugusu refugee camp in Tanzania. Photo: UNICEF/Rob Beechey

A ban on non-governmental associations in Burundi has been condemned by UN rights experts who have pointed to the "growing repression" of civil liberties there.

The move has been accompanied by new legislation which seeks oversight on how such organizations are funded from abroad.

The UN experts also point to allegations of a major increase in enforced disappearances in the country, where communal strife erupted after President Pierre Nkurunziza won a controversial third term in office in 2015.

Daniel Johnson has more.

The government-imposed bans and suspensions currently affect the work of around 10 civil rights groups in Burundi – but they could impact on hundreds of organizations and individuals.

Those already targeted include Ligue ITEKA, which the UN experts in their statement describe as a leading human rights institution.

Ligue ITEKA's treasurer, Marie-Claudette Kwizera, disappeared in December 2015; her whereabouts are unknown.

The clampdown has also hurt OLUFAD – a civil society organization which promotes the fight against corruption.

In addition, new legislation now compels non-governmental organizations to obtain official authorization to operate; they also have to declare foreign funding now too.

In a statement, the UN experts describe these moves as just the latest in a series of attacks on human rights defenders.

Those who have not yet fled the country fear for their lives, they say, amid relentless intimidation, the threat of arbitrary detention and torture.

The warning from the four UN Special Rapporteurs, along with the Working Group on Enforced Disappearances, follows condemnation of alleged gross rights violations in Burundi by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Human Rights Council.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations, Geneva

Duration: 1’11″


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