Human Rights Council
Hears Oral Update on the Situation of Human Rights in Libya
The Human Rights Council this afternoon heard the presentation of the final report by the United Nations Independent Investigation on Burundi, and then held an enhanced interactive dialogue on the situation of human rights in that country. The Council also heard an oral update on the human rights situation in Libya by the United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya.
Christof Heyns, former Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions and member of the United Nations Independent Investigation on Burundi, said there was ample evidence of large-scale and systematic violations of a range of human rights in Burundi, including by non-State entities not aligned with the State. But, the vast majority of the violations were attributed to the State, whose apparatus was used to prop up those in power and to eliminate opposition.
Maya Sahli-Fadel, Special Rapporteur on Refugees, Asylum Seekers, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and member of the United Nations Independent Investigation on Burundi, noted alarming patterns of violence and repression in Burundi. The State security apparatus and the ruling party youth group - the Imbonerakure - were responsible for gross human rights violations. One salient feature coming out of the investigations was the gruesome sexual violence endured by women and girls.
Pablo de Greiff, Special Rapporteur on the Promotion of Truth, Justice, Reparation and Guarantees of Non-Recurrence and member of the United Nations Independent Investigation on Burundi, stressed that the grave human rights situation in Burundi had to be urgently reversed. The Government had to immediately halt the gross and other human rights violations by its agents and the Imbonerakure, and stop using the security forces as armed instruments in defence of a partisan political project. Youth militias promptly needed to be disarmed, under a close monitoring mechanism.
Martin Nivyabandi, Minister of Human Rights, Social Affairs, and Gender of Burundi, said the Experts had ignored reports which focused on external interference and the role of Rwanda in the destabilisation of Burundi by providing training to refugees. The conclusions of the Investigation were erroneous as they were not based on facts. The reported level of violence no longer existed. Burundi had 6,000 civil society organizations and a diversified media, and a massive voluntary return of refugees had been seen. Some countries politicized human rights, Mr. Nivyabandi concluded.
Armel Niyongere, Director of SOS-Torture Burundi, said that the scale of violence in Burundi was not fully reflected by the figures published by regional or international organizations because many human rights defenders had to flee the country and the fear of reprisals was high. No credible independent investigation into those violations had been carried out. The United Nations Independent Investigation on Burundi seemed to lack independence as it had failed to investigate many reports of human rights violations submitted to it.
Jean Baptiste Baribonakeza, Independent National Commission for Human Rights of Burundi, noted in a video statement that the Commission was not convinced by the evidence offered by the Independent Investigation and was concerned about the manipulation of a number of victims. The Commission was very concerned to find out from the Experts the names of detention centres it had known nothing about, and said it would work with the Government on those issues.
In the ensuing discussion speakers expressed deep concern about the deterioration of the human rights situation in Burundi, especially that extrajudicial killings, torture and sexual violence continued to be perpetrated by all parties. They regretted that the investigation in Burundi had faced several challenges, adding that it was extremely disturbing that the Government had failed to bring alleged perpetrators to justice. Other speakers called on the international community to recognize the efforts made by Burundi to improve the human rights situation in the country, noting that the international community’s efforts had to fully respect the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and should be conducive to national peace and stability.
Speaking were South Africa on behalf of the African Group, the European Union, Austria also on behalf of Slovenia and Croatia, Germany, Czechia, Japan, France, Canada, Russian Federation, Albania, Australia, Greece, Norway, Spain, Netherlands, United States, Egypt, China, Estonia, Switzerland, Portugal, Belgium, Sudan, Ireland, New Zealand, United Kingdom, Republic of Korea, Luxembourg, Ukraine, Ghana, and Rwanda.
Also taking the floor were the following civil society organizations: East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project, Human Rights Watch, World Evangelical Council, Dominicans for Justice and Peace, International Service for Human Rights, CIVICUS – World Alliance for Citizen Participation, Amnesty International, and Article 19.
Concerning Libya, Kate Gilmore, United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, noted that all parties had committed widespread violations of international human rights and humanitarian law. Armed groups acted with complete impunity, while human rights defenders and media professionals had also faced abductions and attacks. Civilian objects were not spared, including an explosion at the Al-Jala’ Hospital in June 2016. Migrants, refugees and asylum seekers were arbitrarily detained, often in inhuman conditions.
Martin Kobler, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya, said that after the signing of the Libyan Political Agreement in December 2015, a political impasse had occurred and Libya was witnessing the unfolding of dangerous military developments. There was death and suffering all over the country, and the situation of migrants in Libya and on the way to Europe was unacceptable. Peace would only be sustainable if forged by the Libyans.
Moussa Al Khouni, Deputy Prime Minister of Libya, emphasized that the new Government had just begun its work and would need time to strengthen the legal and security framework. More resources should be provided to the United Nations Support Mission in Libya so that it could support the authorities better. The problem of migration was of an international nature, and no country alone could tackle it. Libya refused any proposal which would turn its cities into holding areas for migrants; the country had enough problems on its own.
Russian Federation spoke in a right of reply.
The Council will resume its work on Wednesday, 28 September, at 9 a.m. when it will continue its interactive dialogue on Libya, followed by separate interactive dialogues with the Special Rapporteur on Cambodia, and with the Independent Expert on Sudan. In the afternoon it will hold separate interactive dialogues with the Independent Expert on the Central African Republic and the Independent Expert on Somalia, followed by a general debate on technical assistance and capacity-building, including on the Secretary-General’s and High Commissioner’s reports on Yemen and Cambodia.
The Council has before it the Report of the High Commissioner on the implementation of Human Rights Council resolution 30/27 on technical cooperation and capacity-building for Burundi in the field of human rights (A/HRC/33/37).
Enhanced Interactive Dialogue on the Situation of Human Rights in Burundi
Presentation of the Report by the United Nations Independent Investigation on Burundi
CHRISTOF HEYNS, former Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions and Member of the United Nations Independent Investigation on Burundi, in the presentation of the final report, said that there was ample evidence of large-scale and systematic violations of a range of human rights in Burundi, including by non-State entities not aligned with the State. But the vast majority of the violations were attributed to the State; its apparatus – the security and intelligence forces, the judiciary, even the schools – were used to prop up those in power, and to eliminate opposition. The space for public liberties was virtually non-existent; civil society was in exile; the independent media was muzzled: silence was not peace. The checks and balances that demonstrated a healthy democracy were not detectable. Mr. Heyns expressed concern about reprisals against those who dared to report on the situation, including those abroad, and stressed that the sovereignty of States could not serve neither as a justification for the most brutal human rights violations, nor as an excuse for impunity. Those violations were patterned, systemic, widespread and mostly the result of a deliberate choice by a number of individuals in the inner circle of the Executive, and it could not be excluded that they amounted to crimes against humanity. The Independent Investigation was very careful to address the issue of the ever-present danger of a return of genocide in Burundi in a non-sensationalist way; the report said that: “Given the country’s history, the danger of the crime of genocide also looms large”, and Mr. Heyns underlined that no evidence of genocide going on in Burundi was found.
MAYA SAHLI-FADEL, Special Rapporteur on Refugees, Asylum Seekers, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and Member of the United Nations Independent Investigation on Burundi, also in the presentation of the report, said that while it was impossible to provide comprehensive figures of the total number of victims of human rights violations in Burundi since April 2015, the United Nations Independent Investigation on Burundi had found alarming patterns of violence and repression. The State security apparatus – the Burundi National Police, the intelligence service and the National Defence Forces – and the ruling party youth group the Imbonerakure were responsible for gross human rights violations. The vast majority of violations documented had been perpetrated by State security actors and the Imbonerakure, often working hand in hand. One salient feature coming out of the investigations was the gruesome sexual violence endured by women and girls, either because they were opponents of the regime, or relatives of opponents, or as a punishment for fleeing the country; some men had been victims of sexual violence as a means of torture or as a punishment for refusing to join the Imbonerakure.
The Independent Investigation had documented a number of secret places of detention, where torture was rife; those reportedly included the properties of top officials, including the President and the Minister of Public Security. Technical assistance had been offered to corroborate allegations of the existence of mass graves, notably in relation to the alleged mass executions of 11 and 12 December 2015 in Bujumbura, and to record and preserve the sites until they could be investigated. A growing trend of ethnically divisive language by public officials and the ruling party was being observed, including the unacceptable denial of the Rwandan genocide. Some of the violations recorded by the Investigation, including rape, had been clearly motivated by ethnic hatred. The number of refugees and internally displaced persons was testimony to the fear and economic and social disruptions which the current repression was imposing upon Burundians: over 285,000 refugees and over 100,000 internally displaced persons.
PABLO DE GREIFF, Special Rapporteur on the Promotion of Truth, Justice, Reparation and Guarantees of Non-Recurrence and Member of the United Nations Independent Investigation on Burundi, outlined the recommendations made by the group of independent experts, stressing that the Government of Burundi had a significant power to make immediate changes in the human rights situation. The grave human rights situation must be urgently reversed. The Government must immediately halt the gross and other human rights violations by its agents and the Imbonerakure, and stop using the security forces as armed instruments in defence of a partisan political project. Youth militias promptly needed to be disarmed, under a close monitoring mechanism. The Government must ensure that the rights to freedom of expression and association were fully enjoyed by all citizens and groups. There was no way out of the crisis without a comprehensive political settlement, stressed Mr. de Greiff and said that the Government should demonstrate its commitment to such a political settlement, including through its active participation in the Arusha peace talks. The integration of the armed forces stemming from the Arusha Agreement was a cornerstone of the peace that Burundi enjoyed for the first time in its history; the quota system should not be undermined overtly or covertly.
All Government officials and other actors must refrain from further fuelling and using hate or divisive speech, while the Government must take all necessary steps to strengthen the independence of the judiciary and put into place effective accountability mechanisms and processes; establish an effective torture prevention mechanism; and ratify, without reservation, the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. If the Government continued to fail to comply with Security Council resolution 2303 and if violations continued, the United Nations Security Council should discharge effectively its mandate to ensure peace and security and protect the civilian population from threat of physical violence, under chapter VII of the United Nations Charter.
Statement by the Minister of Human Rights, Social Affairs and Gender of Burundi
MARTIN NIVYABANDI, Minister of Human Rights, Social Affairs and Gender of Burundi, said that the Government of Burundi wished to condemn the lack of professionalism of the report, which was based on anonymous testimonials. Different criminal groups whose actions were known by all and whose leaders were guilty of crimes did not figure in the report. The experts had ignored reports which focused on external interference and the role of Rwanda in the destabilisation of Burundi by providing training to refugees. The Government noted that the conclusions of the Investigation were erroneous as they were not based on facts. The Government of Burundi refused those conclusions that clearly only aimed to ensure that it was the authorities of countries that were responsible for crimes. The level of violence no longer existed. Presaging the future was not going to consolidate peace.
Burundi has 6,000 civil society organizations and a diversified media, and only 10 had been suspended. The Government of Burundi, which he represented, wanted to give the Human Rights Council an outline of major progress which the report did not detail. Peace and security now prevailed as a result of a policy of disarmament. Private media were operational and Burundi deplored the fact that the report created confusion. A massive voluntary return had been seen of refugees who had fled for numerous reasons. Burundi refused the figures of 100,000 internally displaced. Cases of rape which had been presented in the report as a means of oppression had nothing to do with cases which were currently before the courts. The crime of genocide was not a crime that would be committed in Burundi; the delegation which had travelled to the Human Rights Council was multi-ethnic. Some countries politicized human rights. The Government tolerated no form of impunity. Burundi deplored the attitude against its people and State institutions; it was regrettable to see Experts state that the President of the Republic had a house which had been used for torture. Burundi was committed to the promotion and protection of human rights throughout the world.
Statements by Burundian Civil Society Representatives
ARMEL NIYONGERE, Director of SOS-Torture Burundi, speaking on behalf of a number of civil society organizations and human rights defenders, shared concerns about the human rights situation in Burundi, characterised by systematic violations of human rights by the State agents and the young Imbonerakure, including torture, and extra-judicial executions. The scale of the phenomenon was not fully reflected by the figures published by regional or international organizations because many human rights defenders had had to flee the country, and the fear of reprisals was high. No credible independent investigation into those violations had been carried out. The United Nations Independent Investigation on Burundi seemed to lack independence as it had failed to investigate many reports of human rights violations submitted to it. Mr. Niyongere expressed concern about the proliferation of hate speech in the country, the high number of assassinations, including of lawyers, and the failure of Burundi to present itself before the Committee against Torture.
JEAN BAPTISTE BARIBONAKEZA, Independent National Commission for Human Rights, in a video statement, said that it was not convinced by the evidence offered by the Independent Investigation and was concerned by the manipulation of a number of victims. The Commission was very concerned to find out from the Experts the names of detention centres that it had known nothing about, and said it would work with the Government on those issues. Mr. Baribonakeza expressed surprise at negative comments made by the Independent Experts concerning the national accountability mechanisms, and said that those should have been presented directly and discussed in a constructive manner. The Commission shared the concern about the breakdown in the political dialogue; although the situation had improved, some serious concerns remained and the Commission encouraged all stakeholders to continue their dialogue.
Interactive Dialogue on Burundi
South Africa, speaking on behalf of the African Group, congratulated the Government of Burundi for its efforts toward restoring calm in the country, and expressed satisfaction that a number of Burundians had returned to the country. The international community was called on to recognize the efforts of the Government of Burundi to improve the human rights situation in the country. European Union said that information in the report was seriously concerning, and urged the Government to put an immediate end to violence and guarantee the protection of human rights for all. Austria, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, called on the Burundian authorities to put an immediate end to the crimes described in the report, and noted Burundi’s obligations as a State party to the International Criminal Court. Germany expressed deep concern about the deterioration of the human rights situation in Burundi, especially that extrajudicial killings, torture and sexual violence continued to be perpetrated by all parties. Burundi was called on to prevent further human rights violations and immediately prosecute all perpetrators of human rights violations. Czech Republic expressed regret that the investigation in Burundi had faced several challenges, and said it was extremely disturbing that the Government of Burundi was failing to bring alleged perpetrators to justice. Japan expressed deep concern over the situation of human rights in Burundi, especially the lack of freedom of expression, and called on the country to implement relevant Security Council resolutions.
France remained concerned about the cases of arbitrary detention, enforced disappearances and torture in secret places of detention, and about targeted political violence, and stressed that all perpetrators must be brought to justice. Only peaceful political dialogue between all Burundians on the basis of the Arusha Accords would bring stability. Canada said that despite some efforts by the Government, the situation continued to deteriorate, and that flagrant human rights violations could constitute crimes against humanity. Canada decried the lack of accountability and lack of efficiency of national mechanisms and urged the Council to establish a Commission of Inquiry on Burundi. Russia condemned the use of force by the opposition from abroad to change the Government of Burundi and said that regional efforts would succeed only with strict respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Burundi. Any international efforts should focus on stabilizing the situation in the country and promoting the political dialogue, in coordination with Bujumbura. Albania echoed the concerns of the Special Advisor for the Prevention of Genocide and condemned statements by public authorities that had the potential to inflame ethnic tensions and which could constitute incitement to violence. Dialogue among relevant actors within Burundi must be urgently established, and the Government must ensure protection, rights and freedoms of its population. Australia said that for far too long, the crisis in Burundi had been observed from afar, and stressed the Arusha Agreement remained a basis for peace in the country. Only fully inclusive talks would provide the foundation of peace.
Greece said that despite some positive measures taken by the Government of Burundi, and despite the drop in extrajudicial executions, harassment continued of the opposition and other members of civil society. All stakeholders needed to stop using violence. Norway recalled that the report said that abuses and violations in Burundi were horrendous, and noted that Norway supported the recommendations of the report, adding that the longer it took to find a solution, the more entrenched problems would become. Spain asked if it was necessary to send a reminder that a Member State of the Human Rights Council needed to comply with Special Procedures, and said that light needed to be shed on mass graves, and that the legal system of Burundi needed to be strengthened. Netherlands said that the crisis in Burundi had deepened and noted that repression and impunity had increased to alarming levels, adding that the victims were Burundian civilians. United States said Burundi had descended into a political and security crisis, called on all sides to put an end to human rights violations and abuses, and asked the panellists how the international community could promote accountability and keep respect for human rights and the concerns of victims at the centre of efforts to resolve Burundi’s political crisis. Egypt said that the political differences in Burundi had led to the retraction of development gains, and called on Burundi to continue to exhibit positive engagement with regional efforts for the necessary effect on the situation of human rights.
China appreciated the efforts of Burundi to maintain stability and national reconciliation. The international community’s efforts had to fully respect the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and should be conducive to national peace and stability. Estonia was deeply concerned that since the Council’s session in June 2016 the Burundian Government had taken no steps to improve the human rights situation in the country. The Government should end impunity and bring all perpetrators to justice. Switzerland expressed concern over the serious and systematic human rights violations in Burundi, including summary executions, arbitrary detention, torture and sexual violence. Only a sincere dialogue could put an end to the crisis. Portugal was extremely worried that the Experts could not exclude that some violations of human rights in Burundi amounted to crimes against humanity. Freedoms of expression, assembly and association were virtually non-existent in Burundi. Belgium deplored that the human rights situation in Burundi had not shown any signs of improvement since April 2015, and was concerned that most of the violations were committed by agents of the State. What concrete measures could be taken to re-establish cooperation between Burundi and human rights instruments?
Sudan said that it was important to look at the situation in Burundi in a comprehensive manner and called upon all parties to cease violence and human rights violations, respect their pledges and commitments, and participate in the inclusive political dialogue underway in Arusha. Ireland noted that the decrease in overt violence was largely due to systematic repression which created an inherently unstable situation that could very quickly deteriorate. Burundi was failing to protect the human rights of its citizens, and this was compounded by the refusal to acknowledge the extent of the problem, which was particularly striking given Burundi’s membership in the Council. New Zealand welcomed the reduction of human rights violations in the street and expressed concern about continuing violations behind closed doors, including against children. Burundi had the responsibility to protect its people regardless of their ethnicity or political orientation and the current crisis must not become ethnically based. United Kingdom said that the evidence of systematic human rights violations against civilians was undeniable: extra-judicial executions, torture and horrific sexual violence, perpetuated primarily by or on behalf of the Government. Those were actions of a State that was not worthy of a seat on this Council. How could the Council and its Special Procedures best follow up on the recommendations made by the Independent Investigation? Republic of Korea agreed that robust and coordinated intervention was needed to prevent the revival of the painful history of the 1990s and urged the Government, especially its high-level officials, to stop inappropriate speech that fuelled ethnic animosity. How could the international community address the issue of child refugees from Burundi? Luxembourg praised the work of Independent Experts in difficult conditions and said that the political crisis that had ravaged Burundi since April 2015 had had a negative impact on the situation of human rights as documented by the Experts. Impunity for those violations was a particular issue of concern and Luxembourg reiterated the call for the establishment of an independent Commission of Inquiry.
Ukraine expressed grave concern over the deterioration of the humanitarian situation in Burundi and ongoing human rights violations. All such cases had to be effectively, promptly, thoroughly and impartially investigated. Ghana was appalled by the loss of thousands of innocent lives in Burundi since the political crisis had broken out in April 2015, which had left some 280,000 Burundians fleeing the country and displaced 109,000. Rwanda stated that out of almost 300,000 Burundians who had sought refuge in neighbouring countries, approximately 80,000 were in Rwanda. It rejected the baseless accusations made by the Government of Burundi about Rwanda’s involvement in the Burundian crisis.
East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project expressed grave concern over the violations described by the Experts, including arbitrary detention, enforced disappearances and allegations of torture, committed mostly by State agents. Human rights defenders lived in constant in fear or in exile. Human Rights Watch called on the Council to immediately create a Commission of Inquiry to establish responsibility for the most serious crimes committed in Burundi since April 2015. The Council should also consider whether Burundi could remain a member of the Council.
World Evangelical Alliance expressed concern about the personality cult around the President and the violent methods of the executive which had jeopardized the independent judiciary. No Government could expect sustainable peace in an environment where those prevailed. Dominicans for Justice and Peace - Order of Preachers, in a joint statement with Franciscans International, said that it was crucial to ensure that the Inter-Burundian dialogue facilitated by mediators from the East African community was inclusive and rapidly concluded. The Council must put in place a mechanism to ensure accountability for human rights violations. International Service for Human Rights was concerned by the reluctance of Burundi to cooperate with the international human rights system and it was time for the Council to consider whether Burundi still deserved a seat at this table, and to establish a Commission of Inquiry.
CIVICUS-World Alliance for Citizen Participation was concerned that violence against human rights defenders, journalists and ordinary citizens continued unabated and those behind the violence acted with utmost impunity. The Government should immediately end violence and atrocities against its citizens, and strengthen State institutions, the judiciary and the rule of law. Amnesty International said the Council had to continue and strengthen its scrutiny of the human rights situation in Burundi, and urged Burundi to uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights as a Council member. Article 19 detailed human rights violations noted in the report, such as the disappearance of journalists, and expressed concern over the restrictive media environment.
CHRISTOF HEYNS, former Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions and member of the Independent Investigation on Burundi, said that it was a standard practice to use anonymous sources in reporting; otherwise, those sources could be placed at risk. Paragraph 27 of the report referred to the violence by the opponents of the Government, and there were also references to potential involvement by neighbouring States. Violations should not only stop, but be reversed: people who had fled ought to be given an opportunity to return. There were more than 286,000 refugees from Burundi, which was the number used in the report. The authorities were asked to provide at least one example of one member of the security forces prosecuted for the excessive use of force. The Government of Burundi was encouraged to accept the idea of a Commission of Inquiry, which was not a threat, but a lifeline which would ensure the Government and the international community addressed the existing problems together.
PABLO DE GREIFF, Special Rapporteur on the Promotion of Truth, Justice, Reparation and Guarantees of Non-Recurrence Executions and member of the Independent Investigation on Burundi, stressed the importance of a technical dialogue, which would cover issues such as access to lawyers or justice. With respect to the Rights Up Front Initiative, it had to be borne in mind that the political crisis in Burundi had started only four months after the departure of the United Nations Integrated Office in Burundi. The United Nations system as a whole should engage into the discussion on the elements it had at its disposal. Given the prevalence and the systematic nature of the violations, nobody could claim that the witness protection law was sufficient to secure those who were considering coming forward.
MAYA SAHLI-FADEL, Special Rapporteur on Refugees, Asylum Seekers, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights Executions and member of the Independent Investigation on Burundi, stated that the first responsibility was recognition of the responsibility by the State in Burundi. All violations of human rights were important, especially the right to life; all of those violations were still unpunished. Impunity had to be fought. Dialogue was critical and had to be continued and strengthened. Cooperation with all partners, including the African Union, was of paramount importance. Such cooperation should be bolstered with the cooperation with the United Nations agencies dealing with the protection of human rights. The report made some recommendations, but the Government of Burundi should take responsibility for their implementation, with the help of international stakeholders.
MARTIN NIVYABANDI, Minister of Human Rights, Social Affairs and Gender of Burundi, clarified that every political party had the right to have a youth league. At the level of the Government, there was no awareness of their aggressive acts. It had evolved for reasons that defied the Government. Every case of violence would be prosecuted individually rather than collectively. Any case of disappearance had led to the opening of a file. In every country of the world there were mechanisms and processes dealing with disappearances. The Government of Burundi would not leave those cases without prosecution. At the previous session of the Council the Government said it would work with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to come up with precise figures of refugees. However, there were still people who had fled to the countryside. The term “militia” could not be applied in Burundi and the Government found its use shocking. Concerning hate speech, when things were taken outside of context, mistakes were made in interpretation. A spade had to be called a spade, and not based on manipulated information. There were people who had bad intentions. There could be no mention of genocide because institutions in Burundi were composed of both Tutsi and Hutu representatives. The institutions in Burundi worked; the judiciary worked. The Government would continue to frequently discuss human rights, and it was surprised to see that the progress made in that field had not been reflected in international reports. Magistrates and police had been trained in human rights, and the military had participated in peace operations.
ARMEL NIYONGERE, Director of SOS-Torture Burundi, said the population of Burundi needed to be protected. The Government needed to engage in a dialogue based on the Arusha agreement. There also needed to be criminal proceedings against those responsible for violations. Efforts needed to go beyond a preliminary review, and to do everything possible to put an end to impunity in Burundi. The international community was recommended to suspend Burundi from the Human Rights Council. The disarming of militia forces was recognized, but that work should be carried out with an international commission, because it was a very difficult thing to achieve. The situation in Burundi was being closely monitored, and the United Nations was thanked for its commitment and involvement and for the reports of the High Commissioner and the Independent Experts. The civil society of Burundi demanded that the United Nations take specific steps to protect the population of Burundi and not limit itself to the publication of reports.
Interactive Dialogue on the Situation of Human Rights in Libya
Presentation of Oral Update on the Situation of Human Rights in Libya
KATE GILMORE, United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, referred to the investigation report published in March 2016, which had described all parties committing widespread violations of international human rights and humanitarian law in Libya. The situation had not improved much until today. Heavy weaponry had been deployed in residential areas across Libya, without ensuring sufficient precautions. Armed groups acted with complete impunity, while human rights defenders and media professionals had faced abductions and attacks. Civilian objects were not spared, including an explosion at the Al-Jala’ Hospital in June. Meanwhile, said Ms. Gilmore, thousands of people were held arbitrarily in detention centres, under the official oversight of the Government. Many had been held since 2011, without any legal basis or proper examination of their cases. Reports of enforced disappearances persisted and conditions of detention were dire.
Migrants, refugees and asylum seekers were arbitrarily detained as a matter of course, often in inhuman conditions. Numerous reports indicated patterns of abuse perpetrated against migrants, such as summary killings, torture and other ill-treatment; impunity was still prevalent. Ms. Gilmore welcomed the search and rescue operation carried out by the Libyan authorities, the European Union and non-governmental organizations in the Mediterranean Sea. The previous month, representatives of the Misratan community and the internally displaced Tawerghan community had signed an agreement that represented a further step towards the latter being able to return to their homes. However, the overall justice system remained in a state of near paralysis in many parts of the country, and no members of armed groups or officials serving State institutions had been prosecuted for human rights abuses. The justice system needed protection and support, which should go hand in hand with a demobilization, disarmament and reintegration programme. The situation in Libya was still distressing with little hope of resolution in immediate sight. The Council was asked to consider establishing an Independent Expert on Libya to report on the situation on human rights and on progress made towards accountability.
MARTIN KOBLER, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya, said that the signing of the Libyan Political Agreement in December 2015 and the entry of the Presidency Council had created a moment of hope in the country. But a political impasse had occurred, and Libya was witnessing the unfolding of dangerous military developments. The risk of increased tensions in the capital should not be underestimated, and the political and military instability was impacting heavily on the economy. He said that he had three important messages: that when it came to civilians’ lives, there was death and suffering all over the country. Secondly, the situation of migrants in Libya and on the way to Europe was unacceptable. Thirdly, peace would only be sustainable if forged by the Libyans.
Reviewing the security situation in various areas of the country, he noted that in Sirt, reports of summary killings of Islamic State prisoners were of great concern. Regarding migration, he said Libya should decriminalize irregular migration and establish an asylum system as soon as feasible. On his third point, he said that his message was “national reconciliation.”
The United Nations Support Mission in Libya was now committed to supporting both sides in the implementation of the 31 August agreement which outlined a programme of compensation for victims of human rights abuses. Turning to the Libyan constitution, he said a draft included improvements on earlier versions, but was not fully compliant with human rights standards. Despite the political fissures in the country, a reason for hope was that the judiciary and prison service had largely maintained their unity. He commended the Human Rights Council for its attention to Libya, and underlined that the Support Mission was ready to fully cooperate with any new mechanism which would enhance human rights protection and promotion in Libya.
Statement by the Deputy Prime Minister of Libya
MOUSSA AL KHOUNI, Deputy Prime Minister of Libya, emphasized that the new Government had just begun its work and would need to time to strengthen the legal and security framework. Libya would have preferred more time to prepare appropriate responses to the presentation of the oral update. More resources should be provided to the United Nations Support Mission in Libya so that it could support the Libyan authorities better. The mandate of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya included monitoring and technical support to political and security systems. The importance of strengthening cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights was also stressed. The problem of migration was of an international nature, and no country alone could tackle it. Libya refused any proposal which would turn its cities into holding areas for migrants; the country had enough problems on its own. It was hoped that Libya would rise, and that it could count on the support of the Council.
Right of Reply
Russian Federation, speaking in a right of reply, responded to the statements made by Ukraine, Turkey, the European Union, Albania, New Zealand, Iceland, Croatia and Republic of Moldova about the Republic of Crimea. Three years ago citizens of Crimea in a referendum had decided to join the Russian Federation. The Crimean Tatars enjoyed the same rights as other citizens of the Russian Federation. For years Ukraine had done nothing to improve their situation, and it had started referring to their rights only now. Serious efforts were being taken by Russia to promote their education and culture, and to encourage religious dialogue. The unilateral restrictive measures by the West against the population of Crimea violated their basic rights.
For use of the information media; not an official record