- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 22, 2015

BUJUMBURA, Burundi (AP) - A human rights group says independent experts should investigate Burundi’s forces for alleged human rights violations, including extra-judicial executions, rape and looting in the unrest over President Pierre Nkurunziza’s extended tenure.

Amnesty International called Tuesday for investigations as Burundi’s top security body rejected the African Union’s plan to deploy peacekeepers to the central African nation to prevent the violence from escalating.

The security forces’ violent tactics on Dec. 11, in response to an armed attack upon three military facilities, represented a dramatic escalation in the scale of previous operations, Amnesty International Regional Director Muthoni Wanyeki said.

Men were dragged from their homes and shot at close range, while others were shot the instant they opened their doors, she said.

On Dec. 11, an unidentified group attacked three military installations. Burundi’s security forces responded by going on a rampage in parts of the capital Bujumbura regarded as centers of the opposition. In all, 87 people died.

Most of those killed were residents of Musaga, Mutakura, Nyakabiga, Ngagara, Cibitoke and Jabe - all districts mostly inhabited by minority Tutsis, Amnesty International said.

“During some of these operations, police came under fire from armed youth. In response, they went from house to house looting homes, arbitrarily arresting people and killing dozens of others,” the report said.

In the Nyakabiga neighborhood, around 21 men were found dead in the streets on Dec. 12. The report said the dead included a disabled man, a teenage egg seller, a domestic worker, a teacher and a man who sold mobile phones. A number of the victims were children, including a 15-year-old boy shot in the head as he ran to hide in an outhouse, it said.

Burundi’s government has denied abuses, saying its troops acted professionally.

Burundi has been hit by deadly unrest since the ruling party’s April announcement that Nkurunziza would seek a third term in office. The announcement was followed by streets protests that boiled over into a failed coup in May. Nkurunziza was re-elected in July, but the violence has since increased. Many Burundians and the international community maintain that Nkurunziza’s extended tenure violates the two-term limit imposed by the constitution.

In response to Burundi’s escalating crisis, the African Union last week authorized the deployment of 5,000 peace keeping troops to Burundi. Burundi’s government has rejected the A.U. decision. Burundi’s National Security Council said Tuesday that security forces were in control of the situation.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau said Tuesday that Washington would “strongly prefer that the government in Burundi welcome the A.U. mission on the timeline set out.”

“We defer to the African Union on the next steps,” she said. “We will continue to support the deployment of these troops to protect civilians, and to allow space for the internationally mediated dialogue to find a sustainable, political solution to this crisis. We remain gravely concerned with the situation on the ground.”

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the A.U. communique authorizing the deployment and has started to identify possible U.N. support for the initiative, deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said. Ban also welcomed the Dec. 28 start of a dialogue between the government and opposition in Kampala, Uganda, he said.

Haq said the decision on whether a peacekeeping force is necessary and should be authorized is up to the Security Council. Ban has recommended beefing up the office of the U.N. special envoy, which is already being done, along with the options of establishing a political mission or a peacekeeping mission.

“The current crisis can only be resolved through a credible and inclusive political process,” Haq said.


Associated Press writer Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations and Matthew Lee in Washington contributed to this report.

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