After eight days of meetings, interviews, and exchanges with a wide range of actors, the United Nations Independent Investigation on Burundi (UNIIB), created by the Human Rights Council last December, ended its first country visit today. Speaking to the press in Bujumbura, Pablo de Greiff, one of the three members of the investigation noted that, “this visit was a first step in our effort to gather information and views from all relevant actors.
Nothing is better than coming here, to see by ourselves and meet with various actors.” During their visit (1-8 March), the experts met with government officials including one of the country’s two Vice Presidents political leaders, civil society groups, and victims of human rights violations. They also visited a prison in Gitega, two hours away from the capital Bujumbura, and met with detainees allegedly involved in a failed coup d’état in May 2015. “Overwhelmingly, what we take away is the sense that Burundi is at a crossroad, but also the hope shared by most people that the current situation will improve,” noted Maya Sahli-Fadel, also an expert with the team.
Christof Heyns, the third expert, insisted that “The future of Burundi — internally and as part of the international community will depend on its performance in the field of human rights.” Following their visit to Burundi, on 21 March 2016, one of the three experts will update the Human Rights Council on the team’s initial findings. The three experts are scheduled to visit Burundi again in June and in July 2016. Meanwhile, as part of the investigation, a team of monitors will also deploy to Burundi in coming weeks. Lastly, in September, the experts will issue their final report to the Human Rights Council.