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Burundi Lawyers' Jobs Threatened for Talking to UN Committee

FILE - Burundi nationals from across the U.S. and Canada, along with supporters, demonstrate outside U.N. headquarters in New York, calling for an end to political atrocities and human rights violations unfolding in Burundi under the government of President Pierre Nkurunziza, April 26, 2016.

The U.N. Committee against Torture is expressing "grave concern" about reports that four Burundi lawyers are facing disbarment as retribution for giving information to the group.

A statement by the committee Monday urged the Burundian government to provide "urgent reassurances" that no lawyers or activists would face reprisals for cooperating with the committee.

It said the four lawyers — Armel Niyongere, Lambert Nigarura, Dieudonne Bashirahishize and Vital Nshimirimana — contributed to a report by Burundian nongovernmental organizations for the U.N. committee about alleged torture.

Following the lawyers' participation, a Burundi prosecutor asked the president of the Bujumbura Bar Council to disbar them, alleging numerous offenses, including being involved in an attempted coup.

On the same day, the U.N. committee said Burundi's government announced it would not participate in future dialogue with committee members.

The committee will publish its findings Friday.

Burundi has been in turmoil since President Pierre Nkurunziza announced plans in April 2015 to run for what many viewed as an unconstitutional third term, which he won. Since then, more than 450 people have been killed and 270,000 have fled to neighboring countries.

Last month, the U.N. Security Council authorized a 228-member international police force to deploy to Burundi to prevent human rights violations and provide stability for an intra-Burundian dialogue.