Wednesday 18.10.2017 in Latest Developments
In its report released on 4th September 2017, the UN Commission of Inquiry on Burundi concluded that it had reasonable grounds to believe that crimes against humanity have been committed and continue to be committed in Burundi since April 2015. These crimes against humanity include serious human rights violations such as extrajudicial executions, arbitrary arrests and detentions, torture, sexual violence, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and enforced disappearances. On 29th September, the UN Human Rights Council voted to extend the Commission's mandate. Burundi's ambassador to the UN dismissed the Commission's critical report as “politically motivated, biased and selective", and ultimately part of an "international conspiracy" against the country.
In its decision on 28th September, the National Council of Communication (CNC) suspended radio station CCIB FM+ for a period of three months, starting from 2nd October, on charges of violating "professional ethics and the media law". According to Reporters without Borders (RSF), the charges relate to an editorial aired on 18th September that criticised the authorities' silence in regards to the massacre of at least 36 Burundian asylum seekers on 15th September at a demonstration in Kamanyola, Democratic Republic of the Congo, as well as the lack of investigation into the dead bodies that appear on the streets of Bujumbura and elsewhere.
In that same decision, the CNC withdrew the licenses of four media outlets - Radio Publique Africaine, Radio Bonesha, Radio Renaissance and Télévision Renaissance - claiming the outlets had gone three months without broadcasting. According to RSF, though the four outlets had gone some time without broadcasting, the journalists working for them were still reporting and publishing on the outlets' respective websites and through their respective social media channels. By revoking the licences for broadcasting, the websites affiliated with these media outlets will also now be unable to produce any content. In regards to this crackdown on the media, RSF's Africa desk stated:
"The CNC is helping the government to pursue its planned suppression of media pluralism in Burundi. Even if they deny it, the Burundian authorities do not tolerate any comments on the country’s security situation".
Leopold Habarugira, an official with the opposition party Union pour la Paix et la Démocratie, was abducted in Bujumbura on 12th September while walking with his wife. According to his wife, four men, one of whom was wearing a police uniform, took him away. Habarugira is one of the few opposition leaders who has remained in Burundi since the political crisis erupted in 2015 when President Nkurunziza decided to run for a third term in office. At the time of writing, Habarugira is still reported as missing and has not been heard from nor have the authorities disclosed his location.