UN council sets stage for deployment of UN police to Burundi

AP News
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Posted: Apr 01, 2016 9:24 PM

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution Friday setting the stage for deployment of U.N. police to Burundi, where killings, torture and increased disappearances have created a climate of fear and led more than 250,000 people to flee to neighboring countries.

The resolution asks Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to consult Burundi's government and coordinate with the African Union and present options within 15 days for deployment of U.N. police in order to increase monitoring of the security situation, promote respect for human rights and advance the rule of law.

Burundi has been hit by unrest since April 2015, when President Pierre Nkurunziza announced his decision to seek a third term, which he eventually won. His government has been wary of outside intervention, last year rejecting the idea of an AU peacekeeping force and calling foreign troops an "invasion."

The French-drafted resolution welcomes the consent of Burundi's authorities to increase the number of AU human rights observers from 100 to 200 and allow 100 AU military experts. It notes that 30 human rights observers and 15 military observers have been deployed so far.

Burundi's U.N. Ambassador Albert Shingiro said the government "is ready to discuss and to come to an agreement on the nature, the size and the missions" of a U.N. police presence that is unarmed. He noted that the option of an "international unarmed presence" was a recommendation of the last AU heads of state summit.

France's U.N. Ambassador Francois Delattre said the main objective of the resolution is to back African efforts to help Burundi emerge from its crisis.

The resolution strongly condemns human rights violations including extra-judicial killings, sexual violence, torture, intimidation of civil society organizations and journalists and restrictions on fundamental freedoms.

Two weeks ago, U.N. human rights chief Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein told the council that many people in Burundi are living in "terror" with almost daily grenade attacks and arbitrary arrests, while the perpetrators go unpunished.

The resolution reiterates deep concern at "the persisting political impasse in the country" and stresses the urgency of convening "a genuine and inclusive inter-Burundian dialogue."

The final draft was changed to overcome an objection from the United States. A reference to "disarmament" was removed from a section calling for the U.N. team to work with the government and other parties "in the areas of disarmament, security and rule of law."

U.S. deputy Ambassador David Pressman said any delay in launching the inter-Burundian dialogue risks "a much longer-term and much deadlier crisis," adding that the situation in the country is "beyond fragile."