In early December, the tiny east African country of Burundi garnered international attention when its Foreign Ministry, at the request of President Pierre Nkurunziza, called for the closure of the U.N. human rights office in the capital, Bujumbura. The move was not altogether surprising from a regime once called one of “the most prolific slaughterhouses of humans in recent times” by former U.N. rights chief Zeid Raad al-Hussein. Still, it came as a blow to human rights activists who had pinned their hopes on the international reach of the United Nations.
After violently quelling resistance to his disputed third term as president in July 2015, Nkurunziza and his political allies methodically destroyed the capability of human rights groups, civil society organizations and media houses to operate in Burundi. Since then, the political unrest has given way to a long-term authoritarian crackdown. According to U.N. estimates, over 1,200 people have been killed and countless others are jailed or missing across the country.
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