UN ex­perts warn of ‘geno­ci­dal rhetoric’ in Bu­rundi

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Feature/worldwide -

GENEVA — A United Na­tions watch­dog on Fri­day urged Bu­rundi to im­me­di­ately ad­dress a long line of abuse, in­clud­ing hun­dreds of ex­tra­ju­di­cial killings and wide­spread tor­ture and sex­ual abuse, with dis­turb­ing eth­nic un­der­tones.

The UN Com­mit­tee Against Tor­ture also voiced alarm at the use of “geno­ci­dal rhetoric” in na­tional po­lit­i­cal dis­course, echo­ing con­cerns that eth­ni­cal­ly­mo­ti­vated ver­bal at­tacks could spi­ral into some­thing far more se­ri­ous. “We have re­ports and in­for­ma­tion that in­di­cates that the tor­ture and the mur­der is po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated, and whether it also has an eth­nic com­po­nent, there are cer­tain in­di­ca­tions for that,” com­mit­tee chair Jens Mod­vig said.

He pointed out that the UN’s top ex­pert on the pre­ven­tion of geno­cide had warned that “we are in the early stage of some­thing that could de­velop to­wards geno­cide”.

Adama Dieng warned late last year that the gov­ern­ment and the op­po­si­tion were ma­nip­u­lat­ing eth­nic ten­sions in Bu­rundi, pit­ting Hu­tus and Tut­sis against each other and us­ing rhetoric re­sem­bling that seen ahead of the 1994 geno­cide in neigh­bour­ing Rwanda.

The 10-mem­ber com­mit­tee, which pe­ri­od­i­cally re­views the records of the 156 coun­tries that have rat­i­fied an in­ter­na­tional con­ven­tion against tor­ture, is­sued its re­port af­ter a spe­cial re­view of the sit­u­a­tion in the tiny land­locked na­tion late last month.

The ses­sion was called af­ter Bu­rundi failed to pro­vide re­quested fol­low-up in­for­ma­tion af­ter its pre­vi­ous re­view in 2014, and to ad­dress the sit­u­a­tion since the coun­try de­scended into po­lit­i­cal tur­moil last year.

Bu­rundi has been in chaos since Pres­i­dent Pierre Nku­run­z­iza an­nounced plans in April 2015 to run for a third term, which he went on to win.

More than 500 peo­ple have since died, and at least 270 000 peo­ple have fled the coun­try.

UN in­ves­ti­ga­tors say that in the 12-month pe­riod af­ter the cri­sis be­gan, at least 348 peo­ple were vic­tims of ex­tra­ju­di­cial killings and 651 in­ci­dents of tor­ture were recorded.

Com­mit­tee mem­ber Se­bastien Touze said the mil­i­tary, in­tel­li­gence ser­vices and re­lated mili­tias were com­mit­ting “ex­tremely se­ri­ous” abuses “with to­tal im­punity”. — Al Jazeera

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