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Transcript of Remarks at Security Council Press Stakeout - Burundi

Thematic issues

  • Burundi
  • Chemical weapons
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • Human Rights
  • Impunity
  • Peacebuilding
  • Sanctions
  • Syria


Remarks to the press by the Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Australia to the United Nations and President of the Security Council for November 2014, HE Mr Gary Quinlan, on UN Security Council consultations on the situation in Burundi

Transcript, E&OE

AMBASSADOR QUINLAN: Well, good afternoon. As you know, we've
had a meeting on Burundi – a briefing in the Chamber on Burundi this morning,
and then closed consultations on Burundi. And I'll speak to that in a moment.

I should flag that this afternoon there has been a slight change to our programme and we'll be meeting in the Chamber of the Council first to adopt a PRST, a Presidential Statement, on the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and that arises out of the briefings and consultations we had last week on the DRC. That, of course, will be followed by consultations, monthly consultations, on the Syria chemical weapons programme.

On Burundi, we were briefed by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Parfait Onanga-Anyanga, and we heard a statement from the Chair of the Peacebuilding Configuration on Burundi, Ambassador Paul Seger of Switzerland. We also heard from the Director-General for International Organisations and NGOs of the Burundian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, a very senior officer, Ambassador Gahutu Zacharie. And then we had closed consultations, as I said.

We've drawn together a sense of the discussions in the Council in closed consultations this morning. Clearly, the Security Council members are very closely following the situation in Burundi and we will continue to be vigilant and to monitor developments in that country – particularly in this important draw-down phase of the UN Office in Burundi, BNUB, but also through the Electoral Observer Mission before, during and after the elections scheduled in 2015.

The members of the Council take note of the progressive transfer of responsibility from BNUB to the UN Country Team and we request the UN Office, BNUB, to continue its work until the last day of its mandate, which expires on 31 December this year.

The members of the Council expressed strong support for the continuing efforts of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and his office, and the members of the Council look forward to the effective establishment of the Electoral Observer Mission on 1 January next year, and to early reporting by that Mission to stay apprised of the situation on the ground.

The members of the Council encouraged further efforts by the Burundian Government – the Burundian authorities – to create the conditions for inclusive elections through constructive dialogue, open political space, the end of politically-motivated violence, and the fight against impunity, in accord with Resolution 2137.

The members of the Council emphasised the importance of the roadmap and the code of conduct for the elections, which must be implemented in a manner consistent with the political dialogue. They also emphasised, or indeed we also emphasised, the importance of the independence and impartiality of the Independent National Electoral Commission.

Members of the Council welcome the progress made towards the establishment of a stand-alone presence of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Burundi, and we echo calls for support from Assistant Secretary-General Å imonović for that Office. It will be essential that that office be able to do its job unobstructed.

That's a summary – a sense of the comments that came out of the closed consultations this morning and that reflects the views of all members, of course, of the Council.

JOURNALIST: President, is there any meeting today or possible
meeting on the situation in Jerusalem? You have been in discussions since early
morning with the Palestinian Ambassador and, I think, the Jordanian Ambassador
also on the situation.

AMBASSADOR QUINLAN: I am aware of press reporting out of the
region and elsewhere about the possibility of a meeting. I've had some initial
discussions with the Jordanian Ambassador this morning. I expect to be talking
to the Palestinian Observer this afternoon. We've received no formal request
yet for a meeting, so the situation stands there. But, of course, as President,
we're available and in the hands of members, and of course we'll respond to
any request that we get. But at this stage there's really no more that I can
tell you in any sense on that until we take this a bit further.

JOURNALIST: Thanks, I wanted to ask… On Burundi, earlier this
year there was this leaked UN memo about the ruling party training and arming
its youth wing. And I know there's been a lot of round and about. And I wanted
to know was this discussed in consultations? Does the Council think that wasn't
true? Was it something that took place and was nipped in the bud? Was there
any discussion of considering sanctions on either the promoters of political
violence in the run up to the election or spoilers or however you would phrase

AMBASSADOR QUINLAN: We didn't discuss sanctions this morning.

In respect of the youth wing of the party, we're all aware and there's been previous discussions of all the activities related to developments leading into the election, including allegations of vote rigging and all the rest of it. These discussions have been held in the Council over the last few months. Everybody's very aware of what those allegations are. The focus today has been on the trajectory going forward in the next couple of months and, particularly, everybody is concerned to ensure that we have an inclusive dialogue. But what does that mean in practice? In practice, it means not only the responsibility and onus on the Government to ensure those conditions – and for the Independent Electoral Commission to act independently, impartially – but also on the opposition to remain engaged in the process. I won't make any further comment beyond all of that.

JOURNALIST: The Swiss Ambassador doesn't think it's such a
good idea to draw-down the Mission right before the elections. Will this change
or is it going to happen anyway?

AMBASSADOR QUINLAN: The current mandate of the Office runs
out on 31 December. The agreement that was reached by the Council earlier this
year in (Resolution) 2137 was that the successor mission effectively, which
is the Electoral Observer Mission, and which will be a strong mission, it will
be stood up by 1 January. It will continue to operate strongly and with all
the support that it needs from the Council to do its work before, during and,
importantly, after the elections.

JOURNALIST: Is there not (a gap) between
the drawdown and the Electoral Commission?

AMBASSADOR QUINLAN: The Electoral Office will be established
by 1 January – on 1 January. So there's no gap. But your point about the
gap is important – we must not allow a gap; there is no gap.

JOURNALIST: On Burundi, the human rights situation seems to
be critical in the country. According to what you have heard from your speakers,
what (inaudible) of the human rights situation today and what was the
reaction of the Security Council?

AMBASSADOR QUINLAN: Human rights in Burundi are a big concern
of the Council and most speakers today not all – because people focussed
on different elements in the discussion so that we could have an effective discussion
and come to some assessments and make some decisions about the situation on
the ground – but quite a few speakers, of course, spoke about the human
rights situation. And [they] emphasised the need for us to maintain
the closest possible monitoring on that, to continue working through the UN
presence as it exists at the moment in Burundi to ensure everything we can do
to encourage proper respect for human rights – to see more institutional
respect within Burundi for human rights is vital.

Issues were raised about impunity which is why I mentioned that in my statement earlier on, and also concern about a number of high profile cases, for example, which have drawn attention from the international community recently. But all cases are bad. So this is a work in progress, but it has been made very clear coming out of today our concerns about human rights – it's a priority. And human rights in the context of politically-motivated violence is a major, major concern but not the only concern on human rights.

Otherwise, I think, thank you.

Last Updated: 17 June 2015
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