The United Nations Human Rights Council’s commitment to promoting and protecting human rights is paramount, especially in regions where violations persist. At the 51st session in October 2022, the Council extended the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Burundi, demonstrating its deep concern over the continuing human rights abuses in the country. This extension was a necessary step in addressing the ongoing crisis in Burundi, where the government has failed to cooperate with human rights bodies and mechanisms. In this article, we discuss the imperative of maintaining scrutiny over Burundi’s human rights situation and the recommendations put forth for the 54th session of the UN Human Rights Council.
Persistent Human Rights Violations
Burundi has faced persistent and grave human rights violations, with little progress in addressing these issues. These violations not only affect the lives of Burundian citizens but also reflect negatively on the international community’s commitment to upholding human rights. The Council’s extension of the Special Rapporteur’s mandate in 2022 signified recognition of the dire situation and a commitment to addressing these concerns.
The Importance of Maintaining Scrutiny
The continuation of human rights abuses and the Burundian Government’s lack of cooperation with international bodies necessitate that the UN Human Rights Council maintains its scrutiny. As the 54th session approaches (11 September-13 October 2023), it is imperative to consider extending the Special Rapporteur’s mandate for an additional year. This step is essential for several reasons:
1. **Safeguarding Human Rights:** The primary goal of the Special Rapporteur is to safeguard human rights in Burundi. Given the ongoing violations, extending the mandate ensures that the international community continues to address these issues effectively.
2. **Pressure for Accountability:** The extension of the mandate sends a clear message to the Burundian Government that the international community is closely monitoring the human rights situation. This pressure encourages accountability for past and future violations.
3. **Ensuring Adequate Resources:** To fulfill their mandate effectively, the Special Rapporteur requires additional resources, including staff support, as outlined in resolution 48/16. These resources must be provided promptly by the UN Secretary-General.
Recommendations for the 54th Session
To address the pressing concerns in Burundi comprehensively, the Council should adopt a resolution during the 54th session that:
1. **Extends the Special Rapporteur’s Mandate:** Extend the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Burundi for an additional year. This step is crucial in light of the ongoing violations.
2. **Resource Allocation:** Request the UN Secretary-General to allocate the necessary resources, including additional staff support, to the Special Rapporteur. Adequate resources are essential to fulfill the mandate effectively.
3. **Uphold High Human Rights Standards:** Reaffirm the importance of upholding the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights, emphasizing the global commitment to these values.
4. **Government Cooperation:** Urge the Government of Burundi to fulfill its obligations under national and international human rights law. This includes protecting civic space, respecting fundamental rights, and cooperating fully with the Special Rapporteur.
5. **Collaboration with UN Bodies:** Encourage the Government of Burundi to cooperate constructively with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and consider reopening the country office in Burundi to facilitate this collaboration.
6. **African Human Rights Mechanisms:** Finally, urge the Government of Burundi to resume meaningful cooperation with African human rights bodies and mechanisms, including the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
The UN Human Rights Council has a crucial role to play in addressing ongoing human rights violations and ensuring accountability. Burundi’s situation remains dire, with significant concerns regarding the upcoming elections and civic space. It is imperative that the Council maintains its scrutiny and extends the Special Rapporteur’s mandate for an additional year during the 54th session. This step, along with the allocation of necessary resources and international cooperation, can contribute to improving the human rights situation in Burundi. The international community must stand together to protect and promote human rights, and this resolution is a critical step towards that goal.