Bujumbura, May 23, 2011_The United Nations independent expert on human rights in Burundi today welcomed what he said were several positive rights developments in the small African country, but cautioned about the continuing problems of extrajudicial killings and prison conditions.
Fatsah Ouguergouz cited the steps taken towards setting up transitional justice mechanisms, the start of investigations into extrajudicial killings, the release of Jean-Claude Kavumbagu – a journalist and human rights defender detained since last July – and the appointment last week of the members of the nascent National Independent Human Rights Commission as positive developments.
Speaking after a five-day visit to Burundi, Mr. Ouguergouz said he had met with members of the new human rights commission and told them that “the people of Burundi and the international community were keen to see this commission play a key role in promoting and protecting human rights in the country.”
The expert also said that he drew the commission’s attention to several cases of extrajudicial executions, torture and politically motivated arrests.
“I stressed my concerns at the recent increase of alleged extrajudicial killings and urged the authorities to investigate all human rights violations without delay.”
In addition to his meetings with national authorities and representatives of the civil society in the capital, Bujumbura, Mr. Ouguergouz visited prison facilities where he raised his concerns at the prolonged preventive detention for many inmates and what he called the poor prison conditions.
“In spite of a slight improvement in pre-trial detention, more than 55 per cent of detainees are still waiting to be heard by a court,” he said.
“In light of [the] fact that prisons are dramatically overpopulated and that detainees are held in sometimes degrading conditions, I called on the authorities to take all necessary measures to remedy this situation, including avoiding the detention of individuals that do not present a danger to society.”
Mr. Ouguergouz, a judge at the African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights in Arusha, Tanzania, began his mandate with the Human Rights Council last August. He reports to the Geneva-based body in an independent and unpaid capacity.