Burundi: EU calls for independent inquiry into Itaba massacre

BURUNDI, 10 March (IRIN) - The EU wants the transitional government in Burundi to set up a "neutral and independent" inquiry into the 9 September 2002 killing of civilians in Itaba Commune, Gitega Province.
The EU issued a statement on Friday, saying that a recent trial of two army officers "did not meet minimum judicial standards".

Members of the Burundi armed forces allegedly killed between 173 and 267 civilians in Itaba, an area that had been vacated by rebels. On 22 February, a military court found the two officers guilty of failing to obey orders. They were sentenced to four months in prison, but released for having served the time since their arrest.

The EU said an independent inquiry would "establish the facts rapidly and identify the guilty parties so that they can be prosecuted and judged in accordance with due judicial process".

It said: "The EU therefore urges the transitional government of Burundi to apply those standards to the full to all individuals who are responsible for this massacre of civilians by the army as soon as possible, as was underscored by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights during his visit to Bujumbura."

The EU reminded all parties to the Burundi conflict of their obligations under international humanitarian law to respect civilians.

On 2 March, at the end of a three-day visit to Burundi, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Sergio Vieira de Mello appealed to all parties in the country to forge ahead with the peace process, protect civilians and end the recruitment of child soldiers.

Vieira de Mello called for an end to the culture of impunity, emphasising that trust could only be restored through holding accountable those responsible for gross human rights violations, such as the Itaba massacre.


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