Burundi-UDHR: activists still denounce serious human rights violations

Burundi-UDHR: activists still denounce serious human rights violations

The 74th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was celebrated on December 10, 2022, a day which came as Burundian human rights defenders and activists describe that Burundi is still struggling with the aftermath of the 2015 crisis concerning impunity for crimes committed by state agents and their accomplices within the police or the Imbonerakure (members of the youth league of the CNDD-FDD party). But the CNIDH (National Independent Human Rights Commission) paints a different picture. INFO SOS Médias Burundi

Rights defenders in Burundi say the situation has not yet changed, seven years after the 2015 political crisis triggered by another controversial term of the late President Pierre Nkurunziza and two years after the installation of a new regime which, they say, “promises wonders without concrete action”.

“We also continue to see crime materialized by bodies thrown in nature or on roads with the police or justice often failing to identify the perpetrators of those crimes to prosecute them in court”, alarmed Armel Niyongere, Esp, now lawyer registered on the list of Counsel at the ICC, at the same time Secretary General of SOS-Torture/Burundi and President of Acat-Burundi.

The findings of the last three months are alarming.

“More than 70 people killed, more than 120 physical attacks including torture, sexual violence, arbitrary arrests and extra-judicial executions. It is disturbing and distressing,” says a report by SOS-Torture.

The Iteka league suggests more than 300 people killed in 2022.

The situation in prisons is also alarming according to these activists.

“The number of prisoners largely exceeds the capacity of the prisons, for example the number of prisoners is more than 10,000 detainees for a capacity of 4,194 prisoners”, they lament.

For political space, they claim it remains locked.

“[…] Because the media and civil society organizations suspended or banned in 2015 have not yet been rehabilitated, while most human rights defenders remain in exile. Defenders remain arbitrarily detained, such as Tony Germain Nkina and Floriane Irangabiye who recently returned from Rwanda. Political opponents are also subject to harassment, such as those of the CNL party”, regrets Niyongere.

Burundian activists, however, welcome progress, however insignificant, according to them.

“Of course, there are progress to be recognized, such as the release of political prisoners, the voluntary repatriation of refugees, the numbers of which have increased since 2020. But the number of refugees returning tends to decrease precisely because of these persistent violations” , they denounce.

However, the President of the Republic speaks in favor of the promotion and protection of human rights.

This language does not comfort the world of activists.

“Our only last report upsets him. The Iteka League draws up a balance sheet of 70 people killed, 8 kidnapped, 16 tortured, 35 cases of gender-based violence and 155 people arbitrarily arrested. This report on the human rights situation covers the period from September to November 20, 2022”, analyzes Anschaire Nikoyagize, president of the Iteka League, the pioneer in the field of the fight for human rights in the small nation of the East African Community.

Acat-Burundi goes further.

“Speech is not often linked to deed. Even more worrying, we observe in the speeches of President Évariste Ndayishimiye at the United Nations, the denial of the violations yet documented by the special rapporteur on human rights with whom Burundi still does not want to collaborate”, underlines the lawyer Armel Niyongere .

“We therefore recommend that the government walk the talk with respect to human rights in accordance with its national, regional and international commitments relating thereto,” he said.

Untimely lifting of sanctions

The European Union recently lifted sanctions against some Burundian dignitaries including Prime Minister Gervais Ndirakobuca.

“The EU sees a slight improvement and wants to encourage the government’s efforts in the respect for human rights”, explained the EU.

Burundian activists believe that the EU has misread the situation.

This Saturday, the president of the CNIDH Sixte Vigny Nimuraba gave a rather positive assessment of the human rights situation in Burundi, speaking of very significant progress.

“This celebration comes at a time when Burundi has renewed ties of friendship with development partners, various commissions have been set up for the respect of human rights and several reforms are underway (…) the reached step is satisfactory”, welcomed Mr. Nimuraba in a statement read to the local press in the commercial city Bujumbura without accepting questions from journalists.

But he adds that

“Despite the decision of the presidential pardon, the prisons are still overwhelmed, among the prisoners there are those who have never been presented to a judge”.

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