Burundi Threatens To Quit UN Human Rights Council

A general view of the UN Council of Human Rights at the UN Offices in Geneva. Photo: Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP


Burundi on Friday threatened to quit the UN Human Rights Council over perceived “politicisation” following a report pointing to crimes against humanity in the country.

A presidential source made the warning as a government delegation arrived in Geneva, to make a presentation on Monday, following the publication last month of a UN report into human rights in the landlocked east African nation.

The UN Commission of Inquiry on Burundi reported that there were “reasonable grounds to believe” the Burundi government was committing crimes against humanity, warning these and other serious rights violations were continuing unabated, in part due to hate speech by President Pierre Nkurunziza.

UN investigators found many violations were committed by the intelligence services, police and army as well as the ruling party’s Imbonerakure youth wing.

Burundi has rejected the findings.

Presidential spokesman Willy Nyamitwe said Friday the delegation led by minister for human rights Martin Nivyabandi would meet newly-appointed UN rights head and former Chilean president Michelle Bachelet.

“The delegation… intends to meet with the new high commissioner and we are expecting things to progress more positively than previously because first of all she is an experienced former head of state who understands well state concerns and a lady has more humanity in her than a man,” Nyamitwe said.

He added that Burundi “expects much” from the talks.

“Otherwise, if things do not change and if the human rights council continues to be politicised excessively then Burundi reserves the right to quit the council.”

Last year the UN body elected to send, with the support of its African working group and with Burundi’s support, three experts to the country to “work in cooperation” with the government on bringing to justice human rights abusers.

But this week the UNHCR said the trio were unable to visit the east African nation as the authorities had cancelled their visas in April just three weeks before they were due to visit. Nyamitwe has insisted they were “mercenaries” following a “Western Agenda.”

Burundi plunged into crisis in 2015 after Nkurunziza sought a fiercely contested third term in office that his opponents said was unconstitutional.

Turmoil since then has killed at least 1,200 people, and has forced 400,000 to flee their homes, triggering an investigation by the International Criminal Court, which Burundi last year became the first nation to leave.


War Crimes: Chad’s Ex-ruler Hissene Habre Gets Life Sentence

habreChad’s ex-ruler, Hissene Habre, has been convicted of crimes against humanity and sentenced to life in prison at a landmark trial in Senegal.

He was convicted of rape, sexual slavery and ordering killings during his rule from 1982 to 1990.

Victims and families of those killed cheered and embraced each other in the courtroom after the verdict was given.

It was the first time an African Union-backed court had tried a former ruler for human rights abuses.

Habre, who received strong backing from the U.S. while in power, has been given 15 days to appeal.

Survivors from the Habre era welcomed the verdict.

“This is a historic day for Chad and for Africa. It is the first time that an African head of state has been found guilty in another African country,” Yamasoum Konar, a representative of one of the victims’ groups, told the BBC.

“This will be a lesson to other dictators in Africa,” he added.

After he was sentenced, Habre remained defiant, raising his arms and shouting to his supporters, as he was led from the courtroom.

“Down with c!” he shouted, using a term which is critical of France’s influence in its former colonies.

Throughout the nine-month trial, he refused to recognise the court’s legitimacy, frequently disrupting proceedings.

The ex-president denied accusations that he ordered the killing of 40,000 people during his rule from 1982 to 1990.

ACN Urges ICC To Investigate Baga Carnage, Calls It Crime Against Humanity

The Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) has claimed that the killing of about 185 people, in Baga, Borno State, “may constitute crimes against humanity which should attract the attention of the International Criminal Court (ICC).”

The Desolated Baga Town after clash between the JTF and members of Boko Haram left at least 187 dead

According to the opposition party, the federal government should be investigated by the ICC because it is “either unwilling or unable to prosecute those involved, going by precedence.

“Either unwilling or unable to prosecute these crimes, despite the deceptive assurances by those at the helm, hence the ICC must immediately beam its search-light on the situation in Nigeria.”

The party made this known in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Lai Mohammed, on Thursday, where the party argued that “far beyond the justifiable call for a judicial commission of inquiry into the Baga massacre, it is time for leaders under whose watch these killings are being perpetrated, to be held to account.”

The ACN noted that “the killings in Baga, like previous ones in the areas where Boko Haram and the military Joint Task Force (JTF) have been engaged in clashes, are undoubtedly a widespread or systematic attack against a civilian population – the definition of crimes against humanity which is one of the four groups of crimes under the jurisdiction of the ICC.”

Noting that similar large scale extra judicial killing that occurred in Odi in Bayelsa State and  Zaki-Biam in Benue State occurred before 1 July 2002, when the Rome Statute setting up the ICC came into force, ACN argues that “the killings in the north, especially at Baga, fall within the temporal jurisdiction of the global court.”

The party blamed President Goodluck Jonathan, for the Baga killings for “failing to distinguish between support for security agencies battling the insurgents in the north and the incitement of the same forces against civilians who are caught in the cross fire.”

”When the President issued his tactless vituperation against community leaders, and by extension hapless civilians, during his visit to Borno and Yobe States, we warned that he was further victimising the victims of the insurgents’ attack. That action helped to set the stage for the mindless massacre in Baga,” the party said.

It is estimated that about 3,000 lives have being claimed in the violent insurgency which started in 2008, following the killing of Boko Haram’s leader by Nigeria’s security operatives.

According to the ACN, those engaged in the killings, including the Boko Haram sect, “cannot and must not get away with these heinous crimes” the party insisted.

It also noted the only reasons that the killing and maiming of innocent citizens have continued unabated in Nigeria is because such killings in the past as in Odi and Zaki Biam, went unpunished.

”Enough is enough! Even in countries at war, innocent citizens are not being daily mowed to death either by insurgents or state forces, as we are experiencing in Nigeria. It is clear that the Nigerian government is” the party declared.

Foreign Troops

Meanwhile, the ACN has urged the National Assembly to investigate how troops from foreign countries became part of the JTF troops battling the insurgents in the north

The party said this is important to find out who authorized the deployment of foreign troops in Nigeria and what their mandates are.

”We know that international troop deployments are authorized at sub-regional, continental or global levels. It is therefore important to find which body authorized the deployment of foreign troops to Nigeria, the same troops that are now said to have participated in killing and maiming of innocent Nigerian citizens,” it said.

Boko Haram attacks likely ‘crimes against humanity’ – Human Rights Watch

Human Rights Watch on Thursday said widespread and systematic violence by the dreaded militant group Boko Haram amounts to crimes against humanity.
In a statement on its website, the group said that government security forces also are responsible for numerous abuses, including extrajudicial killings.

Security forces view the scene of a bomb explosion at St. Theresa Catholic Church at Madalla

Human Rights Watch has released a nearly 100 page report entitled Spiraling Violence: Boko Haram Attacks and Security Force Abuses in Nigeria. The document also explores the role of Nigeria’s security forces, whose own alleged abuses contravene international human rights law and might also constitute crimes against humanity. The violence, which first erupted in 2009, has claimed more than 2,800 lives.

“The unlawful killing by both Boko Haram and Nigerian security forces only grows worse; both sides need to halt this downward spiral,” said Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch.

“Nigeria’s government should swiftly bring to justice the Boko Haram members and security agents who have committed these serious crimes,” he added.

Rona Peligal, deputy director of Human Rights Watch, Africa Division said compiling evidence was difficult and dangerous.

“For one thing, the security conditions on the ground were menacing, and we had to be very careful about how we did the research in Northern Nigeria. In addition, we were monitoring attacks by Boko Haram and security forces over a three-year period. Finally, these are really difficult, nettlesome and polarizing issues, which made the report more complicated to write, but I think the report is balanced and fair and comprehensive,” she said.

Boko Haram attacks, which began in 2009, are concentrated in northern Nigeria and have targeted police, government forces, Christians and Muslims.

“What we did was we looked very closely at the kinds of attacks that we were seeing by Boko Haram. The fact that the attacks were widespread – that they were systematic – that they were targeted – that they were focused on particular groups of people, who had nothing to do with any kind of abuse or bad behaviour. And we decided that both the intensity of the abuses, the extent of the abuses rose to the level of crimes against humanity,” said Peligal.

She said these are the most serious human rights violations that a person or group can commit. She said they demand investigation and prosecution.
Peligal also points out the International Criminal Court is monitoring the situation, including the attacks on innocent civilians.

“People who were killed in churches while they were praying. The report has a photo essay with pictures of people who died while they were in church. And it’s absolutely heart-breaking to see wedding pictures, graduation pictures of young and promising people, whose lives were taken as a result of this callous violence,” she said.

The report also criticizes Nigeria’s Joint Task Force, or JTF, which is trying to track down Boko Haram members and end the attacks.

“They have begun to crack down on Boko Haram, but in a way that’s quite violent. And that in itself has contributed to its own abuses. The government itself has engaged in extrajudicial killings – has engaged in excessive use of force in communities where Boko Haram members might be located. And sometimes these have an impact on the neighboring communities,” she said.

The Joint Task Force issued a statement Wednesday denying reports soldiers killed more than 30 people and burned shops and houses in Maiduguri. Residents in the northeastern city say soldiers became violent following a bomb attack that killed at least one soldier. The JTF statement read, in part, that there is “no recorded case of extra-judicial killings, torture, arson and arbitrary arrests by the JTF in Borno State.”

Peligal said, however, the deaths continue to mount.

“The violence between both Boko Haram and the security forces has claimed more than 2800 lives. But of those we estimate that 1500 have been committed by Boko Haram, and that the remainder are largely because of security force abuses and killings. In the first nine months of 2012 alone, more than 815 people have died from this violence. And that’s more than in 2010 and 2011 combined,” she said.

Human Rights Watch calls on Boko Haram to “immediately cease all attacks and threats of attacks that cause loss of life, injury and destruction of property.”