4th Dec 2023

Too soon to lift EU sanctions on Burundi, NGOs warn

  • Burundi sanctions are not on the official agenda when EU foreign ministers meet in Brussels on Monday

The EU should not relax sanctions against Burundi until the regime there has stopped persecuting journalists and human rights activists, leading NGOs have said.

"The EU should not rely on promises of human rights reforms from the Burundian authorities, and insist instead that they meet concrete benchmarks," 12 NGOs, including Human Rights Watch and the Committee to Protect Journalists, said in an open letter to EU foreign ministers on Monday (21 June).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

The sanctions, imposed in 2016, include a ban on EU budgetary assistance and blacklisting of regime henchmen.

The government has since made progress, for instance, by pardoning four journalists and releasing more than 2,500 prisoners.

But one prominent human rights defender, Germain Rukuki, is still serving a 32-year sentence, while an opposition MP, Fabien Banciryanino, was jailed last year, the NGOs noted.

Pro-government militias are given free rein to police parts of the country, where "unidentified dead bodies are still [being] found", they said.

Political opponents are being arrested and mistreated on a daily basis.

"Dozens of new torture cases have been documented since the 2020 elections, and at least one detainee died in detention after being tortured by intelligence agents in 2021," the NGOs noted.

And there have been "no credible investigations" into the extra-judicial killings which took place at the height of a political crisis in 2015 to 2016.

Meanwhile, "the few independent media outlets that are allowed to operate exercise self-censorship and avoid controversial issues. Journalists are regularly threatened or harassed by government and ruling party officials," the NGOs added.

"The Burundian government has failed to implement reforms in most of [the] areas" stipulated as EU conditions when the sanctions were first imposed, they said.

The appeal came amid heightened diplomacy by the former Belgian colony in east Africa to get off the hook.

"It's high time we close the chapter of 2015 to 2020, so we discussed a lot on issues regarding human rights, justice, good governance, and co-operation," Burundian foreign minister Albert Shingiro said in April after meeting the Belgian, Dutch, French, and German ambassadors there.

He also issued a similar message after meeting Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne, the French minister of state for tourism and French nationals abroad, also in April.

The EU sanctions expire in October unless they are renewed for another year.


'We call on the EU to appoint a Horn of Africa envoy'

The UNESCO world heritage site in Aksum, Ethiopia, other heritage sites and religious centres are now under threat. This tragedy is compounded by a terrible loss of innocent lives, sexual violence and a destabilising refugee crisis.

Afghanistan is a 'forever emergency,' says UN head

Afghanistan is a "forever emergency" rendered worse by an isolated Taliban intent on dismantling human rights, says UN refugee agency (UNHCR) representative for the country, Leonard Zulu.

Russia loses seat on board of chemical weapons watchdog

Russia lost its seat on the board of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons for the first time in the organisation's history — while Ukraine, Poland, and Lithuania were elected to the executive council.


'Loss and Damage' reparations still hang in balance at COP28

There is still work to be done — especially when it comes to guaranteeing the Global North's participation in financing Loss and Damage, and ensuring the Global South has representation and oversight on the World Bank's board.

Latest News

  1. Afghanistan is a 'forever emergency,' says UN head
  2. EU public procurement reform 'ineffective', find auditors
  3. COP28 warned over-relying on carbon capture costs €27 trillion
  4. Optimising Alzheimer's disease health care pathways across Europe
  5. Georgian far-right leader laughs off potential EU sanctions
  6. The EU's U-turn on caged farm animals — explained
  7. EU-China summit and migration files in focus This WEEK
  8. COP28 debates climate finance amid inflated accounting 'mess'

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersArtist Jessie Kleemann at Nordic pavilion during UN climate summit COP28
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP28: Gathering Nordic and global experts to put food and health on the agenda
  3. Friedrich Naumann FoundationPoems of Liberty – Call for Submission “Human Rights in Inhume War”: 250€ honorary fee for selected poems
  4. World BankWorld Bank report: How to create a future where the rewards of technology benefit all levels of society?
  5. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsThis autumn Europalia arts festival is all about GEORGIA!
  6. UNOPSFostering health system resilience in fragile and conflict-affected countries

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us