Vote on a Resolution Authorising Deployment of UN Police Officers to Burundi
Tomorrow (29 July), the Security Council is expected to vote on a resolution establishing a police component of 228 officers in Burundi for an initial period of one year to monitor the security situation, and to support the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in monitoring human rights violations and abuses. At press time, the draft resolution had been put in blue, although Council members remain divided over the issue of mandating the deployment of police without state consent, and it was unclear how many members would vote for the resolution.
Resolution 2279, adopted on 1 April, requested the Secretary-General to provide options for enhancing the UN presence in Burundi by the deployment of police. In a letter of 15 April, the Secretary-General transmitted three options to the Council:
1. A highly visible 3,000-strong police protection and monitoring force. In addition to
the tasks above, this force would have some capacity to protect civilians.
2. Deployment of 228 UN police officers who would work together with OHCHR in order to enhance monitoring capacities.
3. A small deployment of 20-50 UN personnel focused on strategic engagement with the Police National du Burundi, assessing the police’s operational and institutional limitations and weaknesses, and identifying strategies for future UN police engagement.
Council members have been divided on the police deployment issue over the last few months. Some members, while recognising the need for the consent of the host state, were inclined to pressure Burundi to accept a more robust and armed police presence that will monitor the situation as well as train local police. Several bilateral demarches were made directly with Bujumbura for it to consent to such a deployment. Others emphasised the importance of host country consent, and therefore, stressed Burundi’s desire for a minimal deployment of unarmed police with an emphasis on training.
The draft resolution on the police deployment was discussed among the P5 earlier in the month and then circulated to Council members on 15 July. The main purpose of the draft resolution is to authorise deployment of UN police to Burundi. It also notes that the 17 July OHCHR report on human rights in Burundi found that while there has been a significant decrease in extrajudicial killings since the beginning of 2016, there has at the same time been a sharp increase in cases of torture and ill-treatment by government forces and continuing cases of forced disappearances, arbitrary arrests and detentions.
Largely based on the Secretary-General’s second option, the draft text requests the Secretary-General to establish a police component with a ceiling of 228 officers to monitor the security situation and support OHCHR human rights monitoring, headed by a senior police adviser and under the authority of the Office of the Special Adviser, Jamal Benomar. In addition, the Secretary-General is to take the necessary steps for the protection of UN personnel and facilities, including the police component, in consultation with Burundi. The initial draft resolution explicitly referred to the establishment of a guard unit but that was taken out of the text in later drafts. The draft text urges Burundi to cooperate fully with the police component including by allowing unhindered access to detention facilities.
The stark differences in Council members’ positions regarding the police deployment were evident in the three meetings held to complete a first read through of the text. Several members held firm to the view that Burundi’s consent was a precursor for adoption. Russia, with the support of others, suggested that the resolution note that Burundi has consented to the deployment of 50 unarmed police officers, who can be deployed immediately. Thereafter, the Secretary-General would continue to consult with Burundi on deployment of the remaining police officers up to 228 in number, and on the necessary means for their protection.
The Russian proposal was not included in the revised draft that was put under silence on 22 July, and silence was broken by Angola, China, Egypt, Malaysia and Russia. A second draft, with little change on the core issues, was put under silence on 25 July, and silence again was broken by Angola, China, Egypt and Russia. These members continued to object to the text both on the principle that host state consent is needed, and as a practical consideration for successful deployment, in order to avoid a scenario where the resolution is left unimplemented. However, other Council members, including the P3, see the resolution as a tool for further international pressure on Burundi to allow for a significant police deployment, which is they believe is very much needed in the country.
On Thursday evening, following another meeting of expert-level Council members on Tuesday (26 July ) and bilateral consultations, France circulated a new draft which notes in a preambular paragraph the consent of the government of Burundi in its 16 July letter for the deployment of a UN police component, including 50 UN police officers. (The letter to the President of the Council reiterates that the Burundi government continues to prefer the third of the Secretary-General’s options, the proposal of between 20 and 50 unarmed police experts to support the Burundi National Police.) In addition, the draft, which was immediately put in blue, provides that the Secretary-General is to ensure progressive deployment up to the ceiling of 228 police officers.
While it remains unclear how those members who feel strongly about the need for Burundian consent will vote, it seems that members are not expecting a veto, although Russia and China are likely to abstain. In additional, Angola, Egypt, and Venezuela have expressed unhappiness with the text during negotiations and may choose to abstain or vote against. It appears that the final changes made may allow members such as Malaysia and Uruguay, who might otherwise have abstained or voted against the resolution, to vote in favour.
Postscript: The Council adopted resolution 2303 by 11 votes in favour to none against with 4 abstentions (Angola, China, Egypt, Venezuela),