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Conclusions and recommendations of the Committee on the Elimination of
Racial Discrimination, Burundi, U.N. Doc. A/49/18, paras. 30-52 (1994).







30. In view of reports of ethnic conflict in Burundi, the Committee decided at its forty-first session to request, in accordance with article 9, paragraph 1, of the Convention, further information from the Government of Burundi on that conflict and on its implications for the implementation of the Convention, in particular the provisions of article 5 (b). No written reply was received in response to that request. At its 1026th and 1027th meetings, on 9 March 1994, the Committee reviewed the implementation of the Convention in Burundi.

31. The representative of the State party indicated that the crisis which her country was currently undergoing was the most serious of the ethnic crises that had ravaged Burundi for more than 30 years; the latest crisis had claimed the life of the first democratically elected President of the Republic and had led to numerous massacres throughout the country. Between 30,000 and 50,000 people had been killed, 800,000 had taken refuge outside the country, mainly in Rwanda, and 300,000 had moved to other parts of Burundi. The representative of the State party said that she wished to provide all necessary clarifications on the ethnic problems and violations of human rights in Burundi, and was open to all questions. She emphasized that her country needed international assistance.

32. Members of the Committee thanked the representative of the State party for her frank account of the events that had occurred in her country and emphasized the seriousness of the crisis which Burundi was undergoing, a crisis that constituted a setback for the incipient move towards democracy and respect for human rights. The members then examined the conformity of domestic legislation with the provisions of the Convention. The Constitution adopted in 1992 and approved by 90 per cent of the population in a referendum provided for equal status and equal protection for all without discrimination, but often the exercise of the human rights embodied in the Constitution was subordinated to public requirements which restricted them. In addition, many constitutional provisions for the protection of human rights, such as those prohibiting unlawful detention, had no laws to give them effect. The Charter of National Unity, which took pride of place over all legislation, including the Constitution, should be accepted by all political organizations; it would be useful to have fuller details of the content of that Charter. Members also asked who, at the present time, was effectively wielding power in Burundi.

33. Members of the Committee noted that the new constitutional rules regarding political rights and the exercise thereof were in conformity with article 5 (c) of the Convention. On the other hand, they pointed out that there was a failure to comply with article 5 (b) of the Convention, since numerous summary executions and cases of torture had occurred in November 1991 and April 1992. Similarly, numerous cases of brutal repression by Tutsi against Hutu suspected of belonging to the Palipehutu party had been mentioned by non-governmental organizations and by the Human Rights Committee. Were efforts being made to reform the army, to conclude agreements with the Palipehutu party, as well as with neighbouring countries on the question of refugees, and to curb, if not halt, the arms traffic?

34. Concerning article 6 of the Convention, it was noted that there was no effective remedy in Burundi for victims of human rights violations.

35. With regard to article 7 of the Convention, it was asked whether measures had been taken to teach human rights to judicial, police and prison personnel.

36. Members inquired about the emergency measures which the Government intended to take to remedy the crisis situation, and drew its attention to articles 4, 2 (1) (e) and 5 (e) of the Convention, which required States parties to take positive measures in accordance with the aims of the Convention. They also asked the representative of Burundi to give her opinion concerning the establishment of a tribunal which would put an end to the impunity enjoyed by those responsible for massacres and coups d'état.

37. Replying to the questions and comments of members of the Committee, the representative of Burundi stated that, following the assassination of President Ndadaye and his close associates, it had been decided that the process initiated by the first free elections in the country's history should not be interrupted and, in February 1994, a new President belonging to the same political party as the assassinated President had entered office. The new President had taken as Prime Minister a member of an opposition party, and 40 per cent of the Government was composed of members of opposition parties; the ethnic problems that existed in Burundi could only be resolved through the establishment of a balance in the exercise of power between all the ethnic groups - Hutu, Tutsi and Twa - that lived in Burundi. In order to prevent a recurrence of coups d'état such as that of October 1993, international assistance was needed to train the armed forces and the police in the area of human rights. International assistance was also needed to enable the Government to combat the impunity now enjoyed for over 30 years by persons responsible for coups and massacres. The dialogue that had taken place between all parties in Burundi had led to the elaboration of the Charter of National Unity, but insufficient account had been taken of the role and importance of the army.

Concluding observations

38. At its 1039th meeting, on 17 March 1994, the Committee adopted the following concluding observations.

(a) Introduction

39. It is regretted that the Government of Burundi did not submit the further information which had been requested by the Committee. However, it is noted with satisfaction that a delegation was present to respond to the questions and comments of Committee members. Appreciation is expressed to that delegation for a most frank and useful dialogue.

(b) Principal subjects of concern

40. Shock is expressed over the outbreak, once again, of massive ethnically motivated violence in Burundi and the subsequent systematic human rights violations to which members of both the Hutu and Tutsi communities have been subjected. Concern is expressed that the recurrent violence constitutes a serious impediment to peace, stability and respect for human rights in the region.

41. Concern is expressed over the cyclical nature of large-scale ethnic violence in Burundi and it is noted with alarm that there is no effective prohibition of incitement to such violence either in the armed forces and the police or among the general public.

42. It is deeply regretted that the democratically elected Government of President Ndadaye was brutally attacked by military forces in the attempted coup d'état of 21 October 1993 and that the significant progress that had been made towards strengthening democratic institutions in Burundi has been jeopardized.

43. Concern is expressed, in particular, that major reform of the military remains to be undertaken with a view to bringing it under effective civilian control and to broaden its ethnic composition to reflect more adequately the composition of the population. Concern is also expressed that major reform needs to be undertaken with respect to the judiciary and the public service, which also do not reflect the ethnic composition of the population.

44. Deep concern is expressed that an atmosphere of impunity continues to prevail in Burundi. As in the past, the lack of effective investigation, prosecution and punishment of those guilty of human rights violations committed against both ethnic communities threatens to undermine efforts to strengthen the rule of law and build confidence in democratic institutions. Concern is expressed that the impunity of perpetrators of human rights violations is one of the factors contributing to the threat of renewed and unrestrained violence.

45. Concern is expressed over the inadequate response of the international community to assist Burundi in dealing with the serious and difficult problems confronting it.

(c) Suggestions and recommendations

46. The Committee strongly recommends that decisive steps be taken immediately at the international, regional (through the Organization of African Unity) and national levels, and through the Secretary-General of the United Nations, to break the vicious cycle of ethnic violence and atrocities that continues to erupt regularly in Burundi. To that end, the Committee supports the call of the Government of Burundi for international cooperation to assist it in its efforts to restore stability and to strengthen democratic institutions. In that connection, the Committee emphasizes the need to restructure the military, the police and the public service in order to bring them under effective civilian control. The Committee also emphasizes the urgent need to take steps to foster, at all levels of society, a dialogue of reconciliation which includes the military and other security forces.

47. The ethnic conflict in Burundi is paralleled by a conflict in Rwanda involving members of the same two groups. It is doubtful whether one State can resolve the conflict within its borders unless the conflict in the subregion is resolved.

48. The Committee recommends that major reform of the judiciary be undertaken and stresses that adequate legal safeguards must be put in place to ensure the security of members of all ethnic communities and their access to effective judicial recourse.

49. The Committee strongly urges the Government of Burundi to make a determined effort to bring an end to the impunity of the perpetrators of the ethnically motivated massacres and other racially based human rights violations that have ravaged the country. In this connection, the Committee emphasizes the need for the investigation, prosecution and punishment of perpetrators by the Government of Burundi in order to restore confidence in the rule of law and also as an indication of resolve that a recurrence of those crimes will not be tolerated. To that end, steps should be taken immediately at the international level to lend more support and assistance to the Government of Burundi with a view to ending the violence, to help in finding a lasting solution to the ethnic tension and to create conditions to encourage the return of the refugees.

50. The Committee recommends that the Government of Burundi request technical assistance from the Centre for Human Rights in all aspects of strengthening democratic institutions and promoting respect for human rights, with the possible assistance of one or more members of the Committee. Such assistance would be useful particularly with respect to legislative and judicial reform, the training of law enforcement officials, the establishment of a national institution for the protection of human rights and the development of education programmes aimed at encouraging inter-ethnic tolerance and understanding.

(d) Further action

51. In accordance with article 9, paragraph 1, of the Convention, the Committee requests further information from the State party on measures taken to implement the provisions of the Convention in the light of the concluding observations adopted by the Committee at its forty-fourth session. The State party is requested to provide that information by 30 June 1994 so that it may be considered by the Committee at its forty-fifth session.

52. At its 1063rd meeting (forty-fifth session), held on 16 August 1994, the Committee gave further consideration to the situation in Burundi (see sect. B below).




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