The human rights situation deteriorated in Burundi in 2015. In July, President Nkurunziza ran for a third term, which was widely considered, including in the region, to be unconstitutional and against the Arusha Accords. This sparked a coup attempt and a subsequent government crackdown. It also marked the beginning of a downward trend in Burundi's human rights situation, which currently poses a threat to the stability of the country and wider region.
Throughout 2015, there were reports of targeted killings, arbitrary arrests, indiscriminate attacks, torture, enforced disappearances, and violence against peaceful protestors, carried out by the police, Service Nationale de Renseignements (SNR – Burundi's intelligence agency), and Imbonerakure, the ruling party's youth militia. The trend was extremely negative on political space and media freedom. The government closed down all private radio stations and only one private newspaper was still operating at the end of 2015. The government introduced strict controls on NGOs, including those promoting human rights. Many opposition leaders fled the country and are currently subject to arrest warrants.
The UK's human rights objectives in Burundi in 2015 were to promote freedom of speech and assembly, and urge the Burundian government to end the increasing violence by the police, SNR, and Imbonerakure. We pressed the authorities to allow civil society, including an independent media, to operate without impediment. We have increased our support to the thousands of refugees fleeing the situation, especially those in Tanzania and Rwanda, where the Department for International Development provided additional resources to humanitarian organisations. We also urged the government to engage in unconditional and inclusive dialogue, including with those who opposed the President's third term. We supported engagement by the UN, EU, African Union, and East African Community. The Burundian government consistently blocked the efforts of the international community, including the UK, to improve the human rights situation. It used a series of bureaucratic procedures to delay or block the deployment of international human rights monitors, and refused to take the necessary steps to establish a political dialogue that would end the cycle of violence.
Looking to 2016, we are extremely concerned about the possibility of further deterioration in the political, economic and security situation in Burundi, additional displacement of people, and increased human rights violations and abuses. Recently there has been a small but significant increase in reports of sexual violence. We are concerned that in attempts to secure stability, the government will further constrain human rights. The Burundian government's engagement in unconditional and inclusive dialogue is essential. We remain committed to assisting regional efforts to influence the Burundian government in order to avert an even deeper crisis. We continue to work with international partners, especially the UN, to develop contingency plans to protect civilians, should there be a dramatic deterioration in the security situation.