Burundi under international pressure

5 February 2013

Geneva – At the request of the United Nations Human Rights Council, the Government of Burundi submitted its report on the human rights situation in Burundi. At the Universal Periodic Review, to which Avocats Sans Frontières (ASF) contributed, several member states expressed their concerns regarding issues such as the impunity of perpetrators of political crimes and extrajudicial executions, threats to journalists and human rights defenders, the absence of transitional justice mechanisms, and discrimination against the Batwa people.

Established by the United Nations Human Rights Council, the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), aims to examine the human rights situation in each UN Member State every four years. This process brings together a large number of States, and national and international civil society organisations. Each review results in a final document which lists recommendations whose implementation must be justified by the State in question at the next review.

Access to justice remains a real challenge for the most vulnerable people, such as the Batwa ethnic minority whose economic and social rights have been all but desecrated” remarks Jean-Charles Paras, ASF’s civil and political rights expert. “Another example concerns the thousands of people placed in illegal detention. 90% of these people cannot realise their rights because they do not have the means to pay for legal aid.”

Economic and social rights of Batwa minorities are not respected

Economic and social rights of Batwa minorities are not respected © ASF/Shira Stanton

Based on its fifteen years of experience in Burundi, ASF contributed a stakeholder submission to be considered during the review on Burundi. (Pour un accès effectif à la justice au Burundi : Contribution d’ASF à l’Examen Périodique Universel 2013 – French version only)

ASF used this opportunity to recommend the installation of legal aid offices in each jurisdiction in order to better inform and guide the population, and the creation of a fund to finance systematic and non-discriminatory legal aid, prioritising prisoners and minors in conflict with the law. “With the support of the international community, the Burundian State must commit itself further to permit each person to have, without discrimination, access to justice,” declared Jean-Charles Paras, who represented ASF at the 24 January 2013 session.

In order to reinforce the right of access to a quality justice system for the most vulnerable people in society, ASF introduced in 2010, a National Legal Aid Strategy which brings together the State, the National Bar Council, and civil society organisations.

” In spite of the deterioration of civil liberties in recent years and the absence of any notable progress in realising economic and social rights, we are continuing our work on the ground. The hopes expressed by the population remain very strong” concluded Mr. Paras.

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