The UN Human Rights Office in Burundi has been forced to close down by the government, the UNHRC chief said on Tuesday.
According to a statement by U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, the office, which has been operating in the country for 23 years was closed down on Thursday.
The office was set up in 1995, in the context of massive human rights violations perpetrated in the country following the assassination of then President Melchior Ndadaye. It played a leading role in the establishment of the independent National Commission on Human Rights, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, in legislative reforms and in the emergence of strong civil society organizations.
“Unfortunately, many of these human rights gains have been seriously jeopardized since 2015,” Bachelet said.
The Burundi government, under the presidentship of Pierre Nkurunziza, severed its connection with the office in October 2016, following a report by the UN Independent Investigation in Burundi established by the UN Human Rights Council.
In 2015, President Nkurunziza had announced he would seek a third term, paving way for political violence and human rights violations in the landlocked east African country.
“This meant that UN human rights staff were severely hampered in their ability to look into allegations of violations,” she said.
On 5 December 2018, the Government requested the closure of the UN Human Rights Office in Burundi, explaining that the country had made sufficient progress in putting in place national mechanisms for the protection of human rights, so the existence of the Office was no longer justified.
“ I am disappointed by Burundi’s lack of cooperation in recent years with UN human rights mechanisms – which even went so far as to include threats to prosecute members of the independent international Commission of Inquiry established by the UN Human Rights Council,” she said.