News in Brief 4 September 2017 – Geneva (AM)

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Fatsah Ouguergouz, President of the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi, whose report detailed extrajudicial executions, arbitrary arrests and torture. Photo: UN Photo/Pierre Albouy

“Reasonable grounds” to believe crimes against humanity in Burundi, says UN panel

International UN-appointed experts say they have "reasonable grounds" to believe that crimes against humanity have been committed in Burundi.

The assertion from the UN Commission of Inquiry on Burundi follows interviews with victims of serious abuses linked to political unrest since April 2015 – and President Pierre Nkurunziza's decision to run for a third term in office.

So far there's no evidence that the abuse is ethnically motivated.

Here's Fatsah Ouguergouz, head of the Commission of Inquiry:

"The violence is mainly, essentially exerted and perpetrated against political opponents. So the crisis is of a purely political nature so far, there is no information available to the commission to say that there is a kind of polarisation along an ethnic basis."

To compile its report the UN panel spoke to more than 500 people.

Investigators did this despite being denied access to Burundi, where there's "a pervasive climate of fear, they say.

The UN probe's findings indicate that thousands of people have been arrested, hundreds tortured and many raped.

More than 400,000 people have fled the Great Lakes state in search of safety, the investigators say.

Committee on Enforced Disappearances begins new session in Geneva

People are being disappeared "all over the world" but the international community is doing too little to stop it, a senior UN officer said on Monday.

Georgette Gagnon, Director of the Field Operations and Technical Division at the UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR), was addressing the UN Committee on Enforced Disappearances in Geneva.

"It is unfortunate that the Convention has not attracted the number of ratifications it deserves, given the gravity, the seriousness of enforced disappearances. With its current membership of 57 States Parties the Convention has not received the broad-based support it requires to meet the objectives and the hopes and expectations of the families who fought so hard for its adoption."

The UN Committee began its 13th session of work on Monday to examine how well Member States have implemented international law that's designed to prevent the practice, punish those responsible and protect victims and their families.

A push to double the number of country ratifications in the next five years has been launched by the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

It's running in parallel with a social media campaign called "Stand Up for the Victims of Enforced Disappearance" to promote ratification of the Convention;

Local authorities “need adequate means” to act on SDGs

And finally, governments have been urged to do more at a local level to implement sustainable development.

The call was made at an intersessional meeting of the Human Rights Council in Geneva.

Member States gathered to discuss how local authorities could promote people's rights effectively, and share best practice, as part of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs.

Under international law, a State is regarded as a single entity and local councils are obliged to comply with national human rights obligations.

Given their proximity to communities, local authorities are essential to the achievement of the SDGs, the UN human rights office said ahead of the debate.

But it stressed that all local governments needed to be given adequate resources to plan and implement their sustainable development projects.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations, Geneva

Duration: 3’29″


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