UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet expressed outrage at comments by Burundi’s ambassador in New York comparing the chairman of a UN inquiry in the country to a participant in the slave trade.
Burundi’s Ambassador to the United Nations Albert Shingiro, speaking at the UN General Assembly, rubbished a report by a commission of inquiry into human rights in Burundi.
His government criticised the report several times and refused to co-operate with investigators.
According to a transcript posted on the Burundian mission’s website, tweeted by Shingiro, he called the commission’s Senegalese chairman Doudou Diène “an African tasked with selling another African country at auction”.
“Unfortunately it’s not the first time it’s happened, we saw Africans selling other Africans during the era of slavery and colonialism,” Shingiro added.
Bachelet said in a statement his “comments were deeply regrettable in both tone and substance”.
The Commission of Inquiry led by Diène was set up in 2016 and published a detailed 272-page report earlier this year saying Burundi’s government and its supporters were responsible for crimes against humanity.
Burundi called the report “lies” and threatened to sue its critics, including the three commissioners.
“The threat to prosecute the members of the Commission for the work they have done at the express request of the Council – a subsidiary body of the General Assembly – is unacceptable and should be immediately withdrawn,” Bachelet said.
“And the personal attack on the Chair of the Commission of Inquiry, Doudou Diène, comparing him to a participant in the slave trade, was a disgrace,” she added.
“Burundi’s belligerent and defamatory response to the findings of the Commission of Inquiry and its repeated and wholly unsupported assertions that the Commission was the puppet of mysterious external forces, as well as Government’s complete failure to address the very serious findings of the Commission of Inquiry, are reprehensible.”