What's In Blue

Posted Thu 12 Nov 2015

Council to Adopt Resolution on Burundi Today

Today (12 November), the Council is planning to adopt a resolution on the situation in Burundi. France circulated the draft resolution following the urgent briefing and consultations on Burundi on 9 November. Experts met to negotiate the draft on 10 November, followed by bilateral negotiations, after which an amended text was put in blue last evening.

The draft resolution includes some elements already contained in the previous Council statements on Burundi, including the latest presidential statement of 28 October (S/PRST/2015/18). It condemns human rights abuses and violence by both security forces and other groups, supports the mediation efforts led by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni on behalf of the East African Community (EAC) and welcomes the decision by the AU Peace and Security Council (PSC) to increase the number of AU human rights observers and military experts deployed in Burundi.

However, it seems that the draft resolution goes beyond what the Council was able to agree on in previous press statements and presidential statements. There were substantive discussions on some of the new language, which had to be modified before the text was finalised. Other issues were less controversial.

The draft recalls that Burundi is a State Party to the ICC and has undertaken obligations to fight impunity for crimes falling within the court’s jurisdiction. However, a separate paragraph that called on the ICC Prosecutor to closely monitor the situation in Burundi and included explicit language regarding the jurisdiction of the court over those who commit or incite acts of mass violence was omitted after some Council members expressed their disagreement. As an apparent compromise, language was included in the text that stresses that the ICC’s jurisdiction is complementary to national jurisdiction.

The draft resolution welcomes the 17 October communiqué of the AU PSC and the proposed steps outlined in the communiqué, while “looking forward” to their full implementation. (For more on the content of the communiqué, see our 9 November What’s in Blue story, “Council to Hold Urgent Meeting on Burundi”.) This represents a departure from the Council’s 28 October presidential statement, which merely “takes note of”, rather than “welcomes”, the PSC’s 17 October meeting and communiqué on Burundi, an accommodation to Russia, which opposed stronger language at the time.

As did the 28 October presidential statement, the draft resolution notes the AU decision to impose targeted sanctions against those who contribute to the perpetuation of violence and impede the search for a solution. However, while members were unable to agree in the 28 October statement that the Council would consider additional measures against such individuals, the draft resolution expresses the Council’s intention to consider additional measures against “all Burundian actors whose actions and statements contribute to the perpetuation of violence and impede the search for a peaceful solution”. Explicit reference to the threat of targeted sanctions by the Council, included in the original draft, was omitted from the text, due to objections from China, Russia and Venezuela. It appears that eliminating any specific reference to targeted sanctions in the operative clauses was part of a compromise to include stronger language on other issues in the preambular paragraphs.

The draft resolution requests the Secretary-General to update the Council on the situation in Burundi within 15 days, including on options for the future of the UN presence in the country, and then regularly thereafter, with emphasis on the security situation, human rights abuses and incitement to violence “against different groups in Burundian society”. The original draft had called for briefings on the situation every 30 days; however, some members questioned the need to have briefings on the situation in accordance with a specific schedule. The compromise was to call for updates “regularly.”

The draft further “affirms the importance of UN and AU contingency planning, to enable the international community to respond to any further deterioration of the situation”, and invites the Secretary-General to deploy a team to Burundi to work with the government, the AU and other partners “to assess the situation and develop options to address political and security concerns.” There was some discussion in the negotiations regarding how to calibrate this language on contingency planning. It seems that Russia was wary of endorsing any contingency plans by the AU and UN, while other Council members wanted to respond to Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman’s statement at the 9 November meeting that the UN should have available plans for the possible scenarios that may materialise. It seems that the wording of the draft resolution was adjusted to make clear that contingency planning is required to prepare for possible further deterioration and that the Council is not endorsing any course of action at this point.

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