The United Nations has documented a witness testimony on mass graves in Burundi with cases of security forces gang-raping women of opposition supporters, UN human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said on Friday.
Violence has worsened in the country with 439 casualties and 200,000 displaced since President Pierre Nkurunziza, former leader of the Hutu rebel group, said he would seek a third term, his opponents say is illegal.
A pattern of security forces allegedly entering victims’ houses, separating women and raping or gang raping them has been documented by the UN, Zeid added.
In another statement, Zeid said that police, army and Imbonerakure militia forces arrested many young men who were later tortured, killed or taken to secret destinations during searches.
Burundi’s crisis is feared by African states and western powers, potentially spilling over into Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, it may spiral into a renewed ethnic conflict.
An army led by the Tutsi minority pitted against rebel groups of the Hutu majority in a 12 year civil war which ended in 2005 with some 300,000 casualties.
"All the alarm signals, including the increasing ethnic dimension of the crisis, are flashing red," said Zeid.
Zeid stated that satellite images are being analysed by the United Nations to investigate witness reports of at least nine mass graves around the Bujumbura district, including one in a military camp containing over 100 bodies reportedly killed on December 11 2015.
Witnesses said that Tutsis were being systematically killed, while Hutus were being spared, one sexually abused woman testified that her abuser told her she was paying the price for being a Tutsi, UN documented.
"And, in the Muramvya neighbourhood, the decision to arrest people was also largely made on an ethnic basis, with most Hutus being released, according to several different witnesses," Zeid's statement said.
Nkurunziza was under enormous political pressure to open opposition talks, adding there was no “credible dialogue”, head of UN human rights office’s West and Central Africa’s office, Scott Campbell said.
"The national budget has been virtually chopped in half for 2016, the government is having difficulty paying salaries, most importantly the impact on the population is being felt."
The pressure for inclusive political talks will be increased with a proposed UN Security Council mission in Burundi and an African Union summit in Ethiopia at the end of January.