Civic groups and rights defenders in Burundi face growing repression amid sporadic violence stemming from the president’s disputed third term, a group of United Nations human rights experts said Monday.
The U.N. experts believe actions by President Pierre Nkurunziza’s government against civil society are "alarming in view of the overall situation for human rights defenders in the country," a statement from the U.N. office in Geneva said.
A number of groups have been banned and a new bill passed by the national assembly last December compels local NGOs to obtain authorization from the interior minister for any activity and to transfer funds of foreign origin through the central bank.
"Disturbingly, these measures take particular aim at human rights defenders and independent civil society, and are being used to unduly obstruct and criminalize their work on broad and often fallacious grounds," the statement said, quoting the U.N. experts, who urged Burundi’s government to end impunity and collaborate with a U.N. team investigating alleged rights violations, including murder and forced disappearances often blamed on Burundi’s security agencies.
Last October Burundi’s government banned three U.N. human rights investigators from entering the country following the release of a report that cited massive rights violations allegedly perpetrated by security agencies.
The U.N. statement Monday said rights defenders who have not fled Burundi are under relentless intimidation, threat of arbitrary detention, torture and disappearance. The group cited the example of Marie-Claudette Kwizera, former treasurer of the group Ligue ITEKA, who disappeared in December 2015 and is still missing.
Hundreds have died in Burundi since Nkurunziza pursued and won a third term that many said was unconstitutional. Burundi has seen violent street protests, forced disappearances and assassinations since the ruling party announced Nkurunziza’s candidacy in April 2015.