UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. human rights chief said Friday that many people in Burundi are living in "terror" with increasing reports of torture, almost daily grenade attacks, arbitrary arrests and killings while the perpetrators go unpunished.
Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein told the U.N. Security Council that "the country remains on the brink of a sudden escalation of violence to even more massive proportions."
He said some positive signals by the government in recent weeks following high-level visits including by the council, U.N. secretary-general, African leaders and others "have yet to be followed up with strong and consequential action" on reconciliation.
More than 400 people have been killed in Burundi's current unrest which started in April when it was announced that President Pierre Nkurunziza would seek a third term, which he won. A new rebel movement has vowed to oust Nkurunziza from power by force.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the council that before his arrival the government announced the annulment of arrest warrants against 15 opposition figures and the reopening of two banned media outlets, and during his visit Nkurunziza agreed to release up to 2,000 detainees.
Zeid said so far 47 detainees were released this week, and the government has taken steps to ensure that one fully independent radio station can operate, but he said a second station that reopened is not independent.
The U.N. rights chief also noted that six days ago 16 members of the FNL opposition party were arrested by police in Kurundu province, assisted by militia members associated with the ruling party. And on March 9, Hugo Haramategeko, one of the few national opposition figures remaining in the country, was also arrested, he said.
"Half-measures will not heal the wounds that Burundi's people have suffered," Zeid warned.
Ban urged Burundi's political leaders to launch an inclusive political dialogue and he called on key nations to "work together without delay" to support a genuine political process.