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African vote throws UN Burundi abuse probe into question

Geneva, Switzerland | AFP |  The UN rights council voted Thursday to send experts to help authorities in crisis-wracked Burundi to investigate violations, casting doubt on whether an independent international probe would be allowed to continue.

The resolution, presented this week by a group of African countries, was controversial since it came on top of a far stronger text previously tabled by the European Union, the United States and Canada.

That resolution, which will be voted on on Friday, calls for the UN’s Commission of Inquiry on Burundi, which has accused the country’s government of crimes against humanity — including executions, torture and rape — to continue its work.

The African text, which passed with 23 votes in favour, 14 opposed and nine abstaining, meanwhile calls for the UN rights office to “urgently dispatch a team of three experts” to Burundi.

The experts, it said, should “collect and preserve information, to determine the facts and circumstances… in cooperation with the government of Burundi”.

It also called for them to “forward to the judicial authorities of Burundi (this) information in order to establish the truth and to ensure that the perpetrators of deplorable crimes are all accountable to the judicial authorities of Burundi”.

Speaking on behalf of the EU before Thursday’s vote, Latvian ambassador Janis Karklins warned that sending a team of experts “dependant on the good graces of the authorities does not lead us to believe it will be able to add to the fight against impunity in the country”.

“There is no guarantee of independence and impartiality,” he said.

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