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UN Rights Chief Says Many in Burundi Live in 'Terror'


FILE - A protester sets up a barricade during a protest against Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza and his bid for a third term in Bujumbura, Burundi, May 22, 2015.

FILE - A protester sets up a barricade during a protest against Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza and his bid for a third term in Bujumbura, Burundi, May 22, 2015.

The U.N. human rights chief, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, said Friday that Burundi is on the brink of a sudden escalation of violence to "massive proportions."

"Continued human rights violations and impunity for perpetrators mean that many of Burundi's people live in terror," Zeid told the U.N. Security Council.

He said that despite some progress in Burundi, which includes the release of a number political detainees, human rights violations are continuing.

Burundi has been mired in a violent political crisis since April of last year, when President Pierre Nkurunziza sought and won what many see as an unconstitutional third term. Observers fear the violence — which has killed more than 400 people and caused 230,000 more to flee the country — could tip into another civil war, or worse, in the ethnically mixed Hutu-Tutsi nation.

Since U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon visited Burundi last month, Zeid said, there has been no decline in arbitrary arrests in the country, and there has been an increase in reports of torture.

After Ban's visit, the Burundian government pledged to release political detainees; however, only 47 people have been freed, according to Zeid.

Ban also addressed the Security Council on Friday, saying that during his visit to Burundi "I heard deeply disturbing allegations of continuing violence and human rights violations, including those targeting women and children."

"I underlined my deep concern over the volatile situation in the country," he added, and "I expressed my profound worry that the potential spiraling of violence risks relapse into civil war."

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