Giving our asylum clients from Burundi a voice at the United Nations

A growing number of victims fleeing politically-based violence in Burundi have requested legal assistance from The Advocates for Human Rights in applying for asylum in the United States. The violations of civil and political rights in Burundi was the focus of an oral statement made to the United Nations Human Rights Council by The Advocates for Human Rights.  The Advocates for Human Rights’ Board Member Ali McElroy delivered the following oral statement in March during a briefing at the Human Rights Council about human rights abuses in Burundi.  

The Advocates for Human Rights welcomes the oral briefing from the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Burundi.  We commend the Human Rights Council for mandating the Commission of Inquiry to thoroughly investigate the human rights abuses in Burundi since April 2015. As the Commission  of Inquiry has noted, the human rights situation in Burundi continues to deteriorate, with widespread and systematic repression of suspected opponents, civil society, and media.  State actors, including members of the police and the Imbonerakure youth league of the ruling party, continue to commit abuses with impunity.

In the U.S., The Advocates for Human Rights provides free legal services to asylum seekers, including individuals who have fled the human rights abuses in Burundi discussed by the Commission of Inquiry. Our clients from Burundi share stories of being accused, often arbitrarily, of supporting protests against the government. They report police and Imbonerakure members searching their houses, looting their businesses, and arresting, beating, and interrogating them and their family members. They report that family members who have been arrested are often later found dead, while others are still missing.  Families often do not know what has happened to their loved ones.

Further, The Advocates for Human Rights remains extremely concerned about violence targeted against family members of those who, like our clients, have been forced to flee Burundi. This is just one additional strategy that the government uses to crush dissent in Burundi.

The Advocates for Human Rights calls upon the Human Rights Council to:

  • Continue the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Burundi and keep the situation of Burundi on its agenda under item 4;
  • Request that the Security Council impose sanctions targeted against individuals responsible for ongoing gross and systematic human rights violations and Burundi’s deliberate obstruction of the Commission of Inquiry and other UN mechanisms mandated to document human rights violations.
  • Encourage domestic, regional and international justice mechanisms to take all necessary measures to ensure that individuals responsible for these human rights abuses are held accountable.

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The Advocates also recently submitted a stakeholder submission for Burundi’s Universal Periodic Review, which included direct information about human rights violations from survivors who have fled Burundi to seek asylum in the United States.  Read the full submission here.

Supreme Court orders reargument in indefinite detention case

Child or woman's hand in jailLast week, the Supreme Court ordered reargument in Jennings v. Rodriguez.  The case challenges whether detention for indefinite periods of time without review defies the constitution.  

This year, there could be up to 500,000 people detained in federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention centers, jails, and private prisonsWhile some are detained a few weeks, others may be held for months or even years while they challenge their removal before the immigration courts and on appeal.   


The initial challenge to indefinite detention, Rodriguez, et al. v. Robbins, et al., was filed in 2007 at the federal district courtAlejandro Rodriguez, who had been detained for 3 years awaiting his deportation without a bond hearing, challenged the government’s authority to detain him indefinitely. The Ninth Circuit upheld the lower court’s order requiring the detainees to receive bond hearings after six months of detention and every six months following to address their detainment while pending their deportation proceedings.  

Throughout the Ninth Circuit, Rodriguez hearings have been provided regularly, resulting in the release of people from detention while they pursue their claims to remain in the United States. Following the Court’s order, people detained outside the Ninth Circuit will continue to face indefinite detention until the Court rules next year.

The Advocates for Human Rights recognizes the fundamental human rights of the rights of asylum, due process, fair deportation procedures, freedom from arbitrary detention, family unity, as well as other rights as an approach to immigration.

By Michele Garnett McKenzie, Deputy Director of The Advocates for Human Rights