NAIROBI (Reuters) - Dozens of unidentified bodies have been found across Burundi, and incidents of torture by security forces and night raids on opposition homes by militias have surged, a top U.N. rights official said on Tuesday.
Zeid Ra‘ad Al Hussein, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, said authorities in the central African country must end the impunity of the government-allied militia called the Imbonerakure.
In a statement, Zeid said there was an “increase in cases of enforced disappearance between November 2016 and March 2017, as well as the discovery of dozens of unidentified bodies in various parts of the country during that time.”
He also cited the case of a video that surfaced on social media early this month in which members of the militia entreated colleagues to rape opposition women.
Zeid said this underlined the “campaign of fear and terror” orchestrated by the militia in Burundi, where victims are often targeted based on their ethnicity.
Burundi’s minister for national solidarity and human rights, Martin Nivyabandi, said he could not comment as he had not yet read Zeid’s remarks.
Burundi was plunged into crisis in April 2015 when President Pierre Nkurunziza said he planned to run for a third term, which the opposition said was unconstitutional and violated the peace deal that ended the country’s civil war in 2005. Nkurunziza was re-elected, but some of his opponents took up arms against him.
At least 450 people have been killed in violence since the crisis began, while an estimated 400,000 people have sought refugee in neighbouring countries, rights groups say.
Burundi shares roughly the same ethnic mix of majority Hutus and minority Tutsis as neighbouring Rwanda, which experienced over three months of genocidal massacres in 1994.
The ethnic motivations behind some of the atrocities in Burundi’s new conflict have fed fears of a recurrence of genocidal killings in the region.
Writing by Elias Biryabarema; Editing by Hugh Lawson