O(FILES) A picture taken on March 19, 201n Friday 4, 2016 at the 31st Session of the Human Rights Council, Pierre Claver Mbonimpa, President of APRODH read a statement urging the Humans Right Council to take measure to protect human rights defenders in Burundi.

Joint statement by EHAHRDP, CIVICUS and Protection International for  the Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders and the Special Advisor of the Secretary General on the Prevention of Genocide 

Read by Mr Pierre Claver Mbonimpa, President of APRODH

Mr President,

On behalf of the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project, CIVICUS and Protection International, I would like to thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak before this Council once again.

During the Special Session in December 2015, I spoke of the Burundian Government’s brutal campaign to suppress dissenting voices. Since then, reports of enforced disappearances, arbitrary arrests, brutal torture, sexual violence and extrajudicial executions have only increased. Since then, the Government of Burundi has assumed a seat in this very room, despite the worsening crisis and its flagrant refusal to abide by its obligations as a member of the Council.

While we welcome Mr Forst’s report and his continued attention to the plight of human rights defenders in Burundi, since his visit in November 2014, the vast majority of the civil society organisations’ leaders Mr Forst met with have been forced to close their organisations, and scores of human rights defenders and journalists have fled the country. Whereas Mr Forst was able to exchange with human rights defenders and journalists openly, civil society and journalists now hide from international and regional monitoring missions for fear of reprisals.

I thank the Council for its support, and remain hopeful that the OHCHR expert mission will be able to meet isolated defenders at risk still working independently in the country. I urge the Council to seek guarantees from the Government of Burundi, as a member state of the Council, that all human rights defenders will be free from violent reprisals resulting from their reporting to international bodies.

I thank you.