COMMITTEE ON THE ELIMINATION
OF RACIAL DISCRIMINATION
CONSIDERATION OF REPORTS SUBMITTED BY STATES
PARTIES UNDER ARTICLE 9 OF THE CONVENTION
Concluding observations of the Committee on the
Elimination of Racial Discrimination
1. At its 1238th and
1239th meetings, held on 19 and 20 August 1997, the Committee considered
the seventh to tenth periodic reports of Burundi (CERD/C/295/Add.1),
and adopted, at its 1242nd meeting, held on 21 August 1997, the
following concluding observations.
2. The Committee welcomes
the resumption of the dialogue with the State party, and the presence
of a delegation from the capital to present the report. While noting
that the report fails to provide concrete information on the implementation
of the Convention in Burundi, the Committee expresses its satisfaction
to the delegation for answering the many questions raised by members
of the Committee during the course of the dialogue.
B. Factors and difficulties impeding the implementation
of the Convention
3. The Committee recognizes
that Burundi is facing many difficulties that have an impact on
the implementation of the Convention. In this respect, the Committee
makes particular reference to the violent ethnic conflict in the
States of the Great Lakes region, including in Burundi; the civil
conflict plaguing the country; the massive displacements of populations
and flows of refugees within the region, as well as the numerous
internally displaced persons; the political instability; and the
very difficult economic and social situation, aggravated by the
imposition of an economic embargo against the State party since
31 July 1996.
C. Positive aspects
4. The Committee warmly
appreciates the efforts of the State party to submit and present
its report under adverse circumstances.
5. The Committee welcomes
the declared willingness of the State party to restore peace and
security in Burundi through political dialogue to be held in September
1997 in Tanzania, which it is hoped could produce a government satisfactory
to all parties. The declared policy of the Government to end impunity
for perpetrators of human rights violations, is also welcomed by
6. The establishment
of a Ministry responsible for Human Rights and of a National Centre
for Human Rights is welcomed. The fact that the Government encourages
the establishment of independent leagues and associations for the
promotion and protection of human rights is viewed as a positive
7. The fact that the
Penal Code, in its article 180, penalizes racial or ethnic discrimination
and hatred, and that the Political Parties Act prohibits discrimination
based on ethnic grounds and makes it an offence under its articles
5 and 63, respectively, is noted with satisfaction.
8. Note is taken with
appreciation of the oral invitation to the Commission to send members
to Burundi to assess the situation with respect to the implementation
of the Convention in practice. This is viewed as a constructive
means of pursuing the dialogue with the State party, and shows the
latter's willingness to improve the implementation of the provisions
of the Convention.
D. Principal subjects of concern
9. The main concern
of the Committee is the continuation of acts of violence and killing
between people of different ethnic background in Burundi.
10. The understanding
of the notions of "race" and "ethnic origin" by the State party,
as expressed in paragraphs 5, 6 and 23 of the report, and reiterated
by the delegation in its oral statement, are a matter of concern.
The Committee emphasizes that article 1, paragraph 1, of the Convention
defines as racial discrimination any distinction, exclusion, restriction
or preference based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic
origin, which has either the purpose or the effect of nullifying
or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise of human rights
and fundamental freedoms on an equal basis in the political, social,
cultural or any other field of public life. Moreover, the attention
of the State party is called to the Committee's General Recommendation
VIII, which provides that the identification of individuals as members
of a particular racial or ethnic group shall be based upon self-identification
by the individual himself. In the present case, it is believed that
a large part of the population of the State party identifies itself
as belonging to one of the three ethnic groups living in the country,
either the Tutsis, the Hutus or the Twas, and that important parts
of the population are living in conditions which do not guarantee
the exercise of human rights under equal terms.
11. It is regretted
that concerns expressed and recommendations made by the Committee
in its concluding observations of 17 March 1994, and in its decision
1 (47) of 1995 and resolution 1 (49) of 1996 on the situation in
Burundi, adopted under the Committee's prevention of racial discrimination,
including early warning and urgent procedures, have not been addressed
in the present report.
12. It is regretted
that the status of Decree-Law No. 1/001 of 13 September 1996, which
regulates the transitional institutional system, the current powers
and activities of the National Assembly, and the functions and powers
of the National Centre for Human Rights and the Abashingantahe
Council, have not been fully clarified.
13. The insufficiency
of information in the report in connection with article 3 of the
Convention is regretted. In this respect, the Committee calls the
attention of the State party to its General Recommendation XIX.
14. The Committee expresses
concern over reports of delays in the prosecution of those responsible
for the assassination of President Ndadaye. It is equally concerned
over the slow progress in prosecuting and punishing perpetrators
of mass killings and disappearances. The delays cast doubts upon
the effective implementation of the Government's policy of ending
the pattern of impunity.
15. It is noted with
concern that no specific legislation has been adopted to implement
fully the provisions of article 4 of the Convention, and that no
information was provided in the report on the implementation of
this article in practice.
16. The lack of information
on the enjoyment by the various groups within the population of
all the rights laid down in article 5 of the Convention is regretted,
all the more so since numerous reports make reference to discrimination
against the Hutus and the Twas in the enjoyment of certain rights,
such as the rights incorporated in article 5 (a), (b), (d) (i),
(e) (i), (iv), (v), and (f), of the Convention.
17. The insufficiency
of information received on regroupment camps in general, and, in
particular, on the ethnic composition of the people in the camps
and the situation and conditions of life prevailing therein, is
regretted. Concern is expressed over reports that people, mostly
of Hutu origin, are forced by the police to leave their homes and
settle in regroupment camps, which are kept under the control of
the army, in violation of article 5 (d) (i) of the Convention.
18. While the statement
made by the delegation that an appeal was sent to Burundi refugees
in neighbouring countries to return to Burundi is welcomed, the
lack of information on measures taken to ensure their repatriation
and their safe return is regretted. Similarly, the lack of information
on the situation of refugees living in Burundi is regretted, all
the more so since reports state that their rights to security of
person and protection by the State against violence or bodily harm,
whether inflicted by government officials or by any individual or
group or institution, under article 5 (b) of the Convention, is
not always guaranteed.
19. With respect to
article 6 of the Convention, concern is expressed over the lack
of legislative provisions to implement the right to just and adequate
reparation or satisfaction for any damage suffered as a result of
acts of racial discrimination. Moreover, the absence of complaints
against acts of racial discrimination raises doubts as to the extent
of the publicity given to, and the effectiveness of, available remedies
for victims of racial discrimination.
20. In connection with
article 7 of the Convention, while the statements of policy and
the programmes launched by ministerial departments cited in the
report are welcomed, the lack of information on concrete steps undertaken
to comply with its provisions is regretted.
E. Suggestions and recommendations
21. The Committee recommends
that the next periodic report provide information on the representation
of members of the Tutsi, Hutu and Twa ethnic groups in the Government,
the administration, the judiciary, the police and the army. It further
recommends that the Government, while restructuring the country,
take into consideration the Committee's concluding observations
of 17 March 1994, its decision 1 (47) of 1995 and its resolution
1 (49) of 1996.
22. The Committee also
recommends that information be provided by the State party in its
next periodic report on the place of Decree-Law No. 1/001/96 in
the domestic legal order, on the situation with respect to the current
powers and activities of the National Assembly, as well as on the
respective powers and functions of the National Centre for Human
Rights and the Abashingantahe Council.
23. In connection with
the implementation of article 3 of the Convention, the Committee
recommends that, in the light of its General Recommendation XIX,
comprehensive information be provided by the State party in its
next periodic report on measures taken to prevent, prohibit and
eradicate all practices of racial segregation in Burundi.
24. The Committee urges
the Government to further its efforts to bring to an end the impunity
of perpetrators of human rights violations and to accelerate the
procedures currently under way. In this respect, the Committee emphasizes
the need for the investigation, prosecution and punishment of those
found guilty of such crimes, in order to restore confidence in the
rule of law and as an indication that their recurrence will not
be tolerated by the authorities.
25. The Committee reaffirms
that the provisions of article 4 of the Convention are mandatory,
as stated in its General Recommendation VII (32). The Committee
stresses in this regard that the State party should fulfil all its
obligations under this article and, in doing so, it take fully into
account the Committee's General Recommendation XV (42).
26. The Committee recommends
that action be taken at the legislative, administrative and judicial
levels to protect the right of everyone, without discrimination,
to enjoy their rights under article 5 of the Convention, especially
the rights to equal treatment before the courts and all other organs
administering justice; to security of person and protection by the
State against violence or bodily harm; to freedom of movement and
residence within the borders of the State; to work; to public health
and medical care; to education and training; and of access to any
place or service intended for use by the general public. It further
recommends that comprehensive information on the implementation
of this article be provided in the State party's next periodic report.
27. Further information
on the situation prevailing in the regroupment camps, as well as
on the ethnic composition of people settled therein and the possibility
for the latter to freely leave or settle in the camps, is requested.
28. The Committee also
requests information in the next periodic report on measures taken
to ensure the safe repatriation of refugees to Burundi, and to protect
from violence refugees living within Burundi.
29. The Committee recommends
that the State party ensure protection against any acts of racial
discrimination through the competent courts, in accordance with
article 6 of the Convention, by, inter alia, strengthening
the court system, the independence of the judiciary and the confidence
of the population therein. It further recommends that the right
to seek just and adequate reparation for victims of acts of racial
discrimination be guaranteed in law and practice.
30. In connection with
the implementation of article 7 of the Convention, the Committee
recommends that all necessary measures be taken to provide training
and education of law enforcement officers, civil servants, magistrates
and lawyers, as well as teachers and students, at all levels of
education, in the field of human rights and prevention of racial
31. The Committee, aware
that the resolution of the ethnic conflict in Burundi cannot be
achieved without a resolution of the conflict in the Great Lakes
region, urges the Burundi authorities to take all the necessary
measures, in cooperation with neighbouring countries, to find ways
and means to restore peace and security in Burundi.
32. The Committee recommends
that the State party ratify the amendments to article 8, paragraph
6, of the Convention adopted at the 14th meeting of States parties.
33. The Committee recommends
that the State party's next periodic report, due on 26 November
1998, be a comprehensive report and that it address all the points
raised in the present observations.