United Nations — Regional and international action in Burundi at the moment isn't sufficient to address the threat of escalating human rights violations and potential mass atrocities, a United Nations official said Monday.
Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Ivan Simonovic told reporters that Burundi is "a clear case" in which human rights violations currently taking place should serve as a warning that more ambitious actions are needed to prevent a worsening of violence.
President Pierre Nkurunziza's decision to seek a third term, which he won in a disputed election, has triggered months of violence, including an abortive coup attempt. At least 240 people have been killed since April and about 215,000 others have fled to neighboring countries, according to the U.N.
Both opponents and supporters of the government have been killed in apparent revenge attacks.
Simonovic supported Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's recommendation on Nov. 30 to strengthen the team supporting U.N. special adviser Jamal Benomar who is trying to promote a political dialogue. Ban also offered two other options — a U.N. peacekeeping operation or a special political mission.
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Simonovic said he would be "dissatisfied" if beefing up Benomar's team was the end, not the start, of stepped-up U.N. action.
"It is on member states regionally as well as on the level of the Security Council to provide for the action that is proportionate to the threats," Simonovic said. "I don't see at the moment that action is proportionate to the threat to Burundi."
Britain's U.N. Ambassador Matthew Rycroft said last week that the council has already authorized more staff for Benomar and members need to look at other actions.
Burundi has a history of deadly conflicts between the country's Hutu and Tutsi ethnic groups. Nkurunziza took power in 2005 near the end of a civil war in which 300,000 people were killed between 1993 and 2006.
When secretary-general Ban made his recommendation to the Security Council on Nov. 30 he warned that "Burundi stands on the brink of another armed conflict that could ... have potentially disastrous effects in an already fragile region."
Simonovic called the current situation "very disturbing" and said the U.N. is monitoring the human rights situation in the country and will soon issue a report on violations.