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Probe Needed In Rwanda-Burundi Lake Deaths


Close up of a UN map of the Rwanda-Burundi Border showing lake Rweru.

Several dead bodies found floating in a lake on the border between Burundi and Rwanda remain unidentified.

Several dead bodies - some bound and wrapped ominously in plastic and showing signs of extrajudicial execution - found floating in a lake on the border between Burundi and Rwanda remain unidentified more than a month after local fishermen first notified authorities of their discovery. The circumstances surrounding their deaths also remain unclear.

As a friend to both nations, the United States believes that whether Rwandan or Burundian, the victims deserve to be identified and their families deserve to know their fate. Those responsible for the deaths must be brought to justice.

Officials from both nations have said they have no indications that the corpses are those of their citizens. The discoveries were first made in July in the waters of Lake Rweru, most of which lies within the borders of Burundi. A top Rwandan police official says his country will aid in an investigation if asked, but the main responsibility rests with its neighbor. Burundian officials have asked families living in the area if they are missing loved ones, but they have received no such reports.

Mass killings have plagued both nations in the past, with a long running civil war in Burundi and the horrific genocide seen in Rwanda in 1994. The incidence of unexplained deaths against such a background touches a nerve then, both in the affected nations and the international community at large.

The United States has expressed deep concern over the situation, and we urgently call on the Burundian and Rwandan governments to conduct a prompt, thorough, impartial and concerted probe into these deaths with the assistance of independent, international forensic experts.

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