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HRC31: Joint-Statement on the Human Rights Situation in Burundi, 16.03.2016 

HRC31: Denmark joins statement on the human rights situation in Burundi

16.03.2016 
Joint-Statement on the Human Rights Situation in Burundi

To be delivered by Canada during the 31st session of the Human Rights Council under item 4, March 15, 2016

Mr. President,
I have the honour of addressing this Council on behalf of a group of XX states.
We thank the High Commissioner for registering his concerns about the ongoing human rights situation in Burundi. We also look forward to the oral update to be provided by the first team of experts deployed by OHCHR to Burundi on Feb 29 – March 9, 2016.
We acknowledge a number of recent steps taken by the Government of Burundi which includes its receiving the African Union High Level Mission by five African Heads of State and Government , granting approval of the deployment of the OHCHR Inde-pendent Investigation on Burundi, and granting permission for additional African Union human rights observers and military experts. Further, we note the mobilization of the international community demonstrated by the official visits of the UN Security Council team, UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Ivan Šimonović, and most re-cently the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, during which Burundian authorities an-nounced intentions to inter alia, cancel several international arrest warrants and release at least 1,200 detainees. However, these gestures are not commensurate with the seri-ousness of the human rights situation. We call on the Government to immediately take the action necessary to follow through on these commitments, and to grant full access to AU human rights monitors and military experts for independent, international monitor-ing. While cooperation is vital to the stabilization process, progress towards stability is eclipsed by increasing violence and continuing human rights violations and abuses.

Mr. President, since this Council held a Special Session on the Human Rights Situation in Burundi on December 17, 2015, the situation in Burundi has worsened and our con-cerns have deepened. We continue to be deeply concerned by the humanitarian situa-tion with more than 260,000 Burundians who have fled the country, and that greater than a 1,000 refugees are fleeing each week in search of a safe place. We are also concerned about the situation of the more than 78,000 internally displaced and more than 50,0000 refugees residing in Burundi, as well as the deteriorating access to basic services, such as primary health care.

We are gravely concerned by the human rights violations and abuses being committed by State and non-state actors, including the credible reports of increased targeted and indiscriminate attacks against civilians, mass arbitrary arrests, torture, and detentions, and of sexual violence being used as an instrument of repression. We call on all parties to exercise restraint and stop the violence which has reportedly claimed at least 469 lives since April 26, 2015, and to take immediate steps to end torture, sexual violence, arbitrary detention, enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings. We urge Burun-dian authorities to conduct impartial and independent investigations on these and other
human rights violations and abuses, and recent reports of mass graves, in order to bring
those responsible to justice. We remind the Burundian authorities of their responsibility
to protect civilians from atrocity crimes.

We strongly condemn all forms of violence and provocation in Burundi. We are troubled
by the numerous reports of ongoing government repression of civil liberties and dangerous and divisive rhetoric by members of the Government as well as some opposition political party members and supporters. Further we call on Burundian authorities to lift restrictions placed on rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, and provisions on funding to civil society. By creating and maintaining an enabling environment for civil society and independent media, they can actively support efforts in building peace.

The Arusha Agreement, Mr. President, which remains in force today, once allowed Burundi to build peace. Being the cornerstone of peace, security and stability in Burundi it is a key framework to address the political problem which is at the root of this crisis today.

Any effort to undermine that Agreement risks further instability. To this end, a resumption
of an inclusive, inter-Burundi regionally-mediated dialogue is urgently needed
for a comprehensive political solution and to restore stability.
We urge the Burundian authorities to continue facilitating the High Commissioner’s implementation
of the mandate provided to him by the resolution A/HRC/S.24, adopted by
the Human Rights Council during the Special Session on Burundi on 17 December
2015, including the request to urgently organize and dispatch independent experts to
Burundi to conduct investigations on human rights violations and engage with the Burundian authorities and all other relevant stakeholders. We request the High Commissioner and all relevant independent human rights mechanisms to monitor the situation in Burundi and to ensure reporting on this evolving situation.

We urge Burundian authorities to cooperate with the international community including
the United Nations, the East African Community and the African Union, and in particular
we encourage engagement without conditions in talks led by the East African Community.

Burundi must seize this opportunity to make use of these tools at its disposal, including
those from the Human Rights Council, to end the current violence. We reaffirm that
the Council seeks to play an important and helpful role in preventing the further worsening
of the human rights situation and escalation of the crisis.

The 10th anniversary of the Human Rights Council is also an important occasion to remind the elected members of the Council, including Burundi, of their duty as members
of this Council to uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights and their commitment to fully cooperate with the Council.