Documents considered by the Committee on 14th October 2015 - European Scrutiny Contents


12 EU Burundi: restrictive measures

Committee's assessment Politically important
Committee's decisionNot cleared from scrutiny; further information requested
Document details(a) Council Decision concerning restrictive measures in view of the situation in Burundi; (b) Council Regulation 2015 concerning restrictive measures in view of the situation in Burundi
Legal base(a) Article 29 TEU, unanimity (b) Article 215 TFEU,QMV
DepartmentForeign and Commonwealth Office
Document Numbers (a) (37155), —; (b) (37156), —

Summary and Committee's conclusions

12.1 The EU Council has adopted travel restrictions and an asset freeze in respect of four persons whose activities are undermining democracy or obstructing efforts to achieve a political solution to the current crisis in Burundi, in particular through acts of violence, repression or incitement to violence, including acts which constitute serious human rights violations.

12.2 The Minister for Europe (Mr David Lidington) says that:

—  the Government remains concerned about the continuing human rights atrocities, including targeted killings, taking place in Burundi, as well as the impunity enjoyed by perpetrators;

—  the Burundian government's refusal to engage in political dialogue with the international community is contributing towards destabilising the country; and

—  implementing a sanctions regime is the most effective option to encourage all parties in Burundi to abide by political process and engage with the international community, and hold those responsible for violence to account.

12.3 Both the Council Decision and Council Regulation were adopted on 1 October 2015, and published in the Official Journal on 2 October 2015. In order to ensure details of the designations were not made public until after the measures were in place, and thus to mitigate any risk of asset flight, the Minister found himself having to over-ride scrutiny.

12.4 No questions arise from the EU's actions; and in the circumstances outlined, we do not take issue with Minister's action.

12.5 However, it is plainly unsatisfactory that all we know of the background (see below for details) has been obtained from elsewhere. Nor does the Minister say who the individuals affected by these measures are, nor provide any information on what they have done to warrant being thus targeted. We would also have expected him to explain what the continuing human rights atrocities taking place in Burundi are, who is being subject to targeted killings, and who the perpetrators enjoying impunity are. And we would have expected him to explain what the international community is seeking to do in which the Burundian government is refusing to engage, and who all parties are that the EU is hereby seeking to encourage to engage in political dialogue. In short, we need to know somewhat more about what is going on, who is being targeted, and why.

12.6 In the meantime, we shall retain the documents under scrutiny.

Full details of the documents: (a) Council Decision (CFSP) 2015/1763 of 1 October 2015 concerning restrictive measures in view of the situation in Burundi: (37155), —; (b) Council Regulation (EU) 2015/1755 of 1 October 2015 concerning restrictive measures in view of the situation in Burundi: (37156), —.

Background

12.7 The BBC describes Burundi as:

"one of the world's poorest nations, is struggling to emerge from a 12-year, ethnic-based civil war. Since independence in 1962 it has been plagued by tension between the usually-dominant Tutsi minority and the Hutu majority. The ethnic violence sparked off in 1994 made Burundi the scene of one of Africa's most intractable conflicts."

12.8 The BBC country profile goes on to note that Pierre Nkurunziza, a former Hutu rebel leader, became the first president to be chosen in democratic elections since the start of Burundi's civil war in 1994. Burundi was then plunged into its worst crisis since the end of a civil war in 2005, when Mr Nkurunziza's ultimately successful bid for re-election to a third term sparked protests by opposition supporters who said the move was unconstitutional. Operating in a turbulent political climate, Burundi's media are subject to self-censorship and occasional government censorship. In June 2013 President Nkurunziza approved a new media law, which critics condemned as an attack on press freedom. The law forbids reporting on matters that could "undermine national security, public order or the economy".[ 91]

12.9 In reporting the imposition of these measures, the BBC said on 2 October:

—  the EU has imposed an asset freeze and travel ban on three Burundi officials accused of ordering excessive force against peaceful protestors;

—  the officials — overseeing intelligence and security bodies — are close to President Pierre Nkurunziza;

—  the EU has also imposed sanctions on a former general who took part in a failed coup in May;

—  Burundi's foreign minister has defended the use of force, saying the demonstrations were violent;

—  President Nkurunziza's decision to pursue a third term in office triggered street protests and the coup attempt; and

—  opponents of the president say the decision was unconstitutional.[ 92]

12.10 In an accompanying letter of 9 October 2015, the Minister says that in order to ensure details of the designations were not made public until after the measures were in place, and thus to mitigate any risk of asset flight, he found himself having to agree to the adoption of the Council Decision and Regulation before the Committee had an opportunity to scrutinise them.

Previous Committee Reports

None.


91   See "Burundi Country Profile". Back

92   See Burundi crisis: Nkurunziza aides and coup plotter face EU sanctions. Back


 
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Prepared 14 October 2015