U.S. Lifting Burundi Sanctions; Rights Groups Call for Accountability
WASHINGTON D.C. — Human Rights First and Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights expressed concern regarding the Biden Administration’s November 18 decision to terminate the targeted U.S. sanctions program focused on Burundi, created in response to the crisis that Pierre Nkurunziza sparked with his 2015 decision to seek an unconstitutional third term as Burundi’s president.
“The wisdom of the administration’s decision on Burundi sanctions will depend on whether it is paired with an increased U.S. focus on accountability for the torture, extrajudicial killings, and other human rights abuses that helped drive U.S. concern about the situation in Burundi in the first place,” said Human Rights First’s Senior Advisor for Accountability Adam Keith. “Burundi has taken modest steps away from instability and repression since President Nkurunziza died in office last year, but security forces and the ruling party’s youth militia have faced little accountability for the abuses that helped keep the ruling party in power. Top officials reportedly implicated in these abuses have been promoted under the new president.”
To make clear that brutal violence is not a playbook for retaining power without any consequence, the two human rights organizations call on the U.S. government to bar entry to any Burundian nationals whose involvement in gross violations of human rights makes them ineligible to enter the United States. More proactively, the U.S. should support the monitoring work of the UN’s special rapporteur for Burundi and help the International Criminal Court secure cooperation with its investigation into crimes against humanity.
“Targeted sanctions tools are only a means to an end,” continued Keith. “In Burundi and elsewhere, the United States should use its full diplomatic toolkit – including the Global Magnitsky sanctions program, as necessary – to help promote justice and accountability.”