- Human right groups today claim politically motivated killings, assaults and arbitrary arrests still reign the day in Burundi, despite the country's newfound peace. The UN however commends Burundi for strides in carrying out its peace pact.
The US-based group Human Rights Watch (HRW) today in a report claims to document that little progress has been made in Burundi when it comes to halt political violence and repression in the country. "Politically motivated killings, assaults and arbitrary arrests" were continuing "despite progress in peace talks between the government and the former rebel group, Forces of National Liberation (FNL)," the report said.
"The ruling party and the former FNL rebels have been all too ready to commit abuses to intimidate their political rivals and assert power," said HRW's Georgette Gagnon. "But this is not the road either to meaningful elections or to a decent future for Burundi's people," she added, commenting on the presidential, parliamentary and local elections scheduled for 2010.
The report documents 23 killings, as well as a dozen non-fatal shootings and grenade attacks, carried out between January 2008 and April 2009 in the context of local-level apparent score-settling between FNL members and those affiliated with the ruling CNDD-FDD party, including some police, administrative officials, and national intelligence service agents.
It also documents more than 120 arrests since mid-2008, apparently on the basis of political affiliation, by police and administrative officials. "Virtually no one has been prosecuted for the abuses, in spite of the government's professed commitment to human rights when it took power in 2005," HRW holds.
But the latest report to the UN Security Council on Burundi, presented yesterday by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, hails the government and rebels for the great progress made in the peace process and "laying the foundations for holding free, fair and peaceful elections in 2010."
While praising the new peace and stability found in Burundi, Mr Ban in his report however also mentions human rights abuses as a further challenge. The report underscored that Burundi should press ahead with efforts to improve the human rights situation by fighting impunity and consulting on setting up transitional justice mechanisms.
Mr Ban pointed to impunity, particularly for sexual and gender-based crimes, as a source of serious concern. Also, between December 2008 and March 2009, five people with albinism were mutilated and killed, bringing the total number of albinos killed since last August to 10, the UN report noted.
One dozen suspects have been apprehended by authorities in connection with the killings of albinos, Mr Ban nevertheless noted, seeing this as a good sign that the culture of impunity was nearing an end also in Burundi.
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