CIVICUS, the global civil society network, and the Ligue des Droits de la personne dans la région des Grandes Lacs (LDGL), warn about rising levels of harassment of civil society activists and journalists in Burundi. They urge the Government of Burundi to respect its constitutional and international law obligations on human rights.
The two bodies are concerned about several recent developments in Burundi:
On 8 January 2013, journalist Hassan Ruvakuki was sentenced to three years imprisonment by an appeals court in Gitega. Hassan, a reporter for local Burundian radio station Bonesha FM and French broadcaster Radio France International was initially arrested and detained in November 2011. He was charged with “terrorism” in June 2012 and handed a life sentence by a court in Cankuzo in relation to an interview he conducted in November 2011 unearthing the existence of a new rebel movement along the Burundian border with Tanzania. Following a lengthy appeals process, the appeals court altered his sentence to three years in prison, replacing the “terrorism” charges with that of “working with a criminal group.” This constitutes the latest onslaught on free expression and journalistic freedoms in Burundi.
In January 2013, Burundi went through its Universal Periodic Review (UPR) at the UN Human Rights Council where concerns regarding judicial harassment, arbitrary detention and threats to human rights defenders were discussed. These were also highlighted by CIVICUS and LDGL in their submission to the 15th session of the UPR. Notably, the practice of summoning of civil society activists and journalists by government officials in reaction to statements and reports on human rights violations continues unabated.
In July 2012, an anti-corruption court sentenced Faustin Ndikumana, president of Parole et Action Pour le Réveil des Consciences et l’Evolution des Mentalités (PARCEM) to five years in prison for making “false declarations” after he wrote to the Minister of Justice that some judges had confessed to his organisation that they had been requested to pay bribes to be recruited. Although Faustin Ndikumana is currently on bail pending an appeal against his conviction, his movements are severely restricted.
In June 2012, Mireille Niyonzima, head of the Association for the Defence of Women’s Rights in Burundi (ADDF) repeatedly received threatening phone calls from unidentified individuals after writing to the President of Burundi Pierre Nkurunziza complaining about certain policies that negatively affect women’s rights in the country.
In May 2012, another journalist, Alexis Nibasumba received threatening phone calls in connection with his investigation into a suspected case of extra-judicial killing by the police in Rumonge.
CIVICUS calls on the government of Burundi to create an enabling environment for civil society to operate in accordance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights to which Burundi is a party. In particular, the following minimum requirements in policy and practice for civil society to operate should be guaranteed: freedom of expression, freedom of association, the right to operate free from unwarranted state interference, the right to communicate and cooperate, the right to seek and secure funding and the state’s duty to protect.
David Kode, Policy and Advocacy Officer at CIVICUS said:
“We strongly condemn the victimization of Hassan simply for carrying out his professional responsibilities. Sadly, this is not the first instance of harassment of activists or journalists in Burundi for telling the truth.”
NOTES TO EDITORS
CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation is a global alliance of civil society. Founded in 1993 and headquartered in Johannesburg, South Africa. One of the primary objectives of CIVICUS is to strengthen citizen action and civil society throughout the world, especially in areas where participatory democracy and citizens’ freedom of association are challenged. For more information, go to www.civicus.org
LGDL: The Ligue des Droits de la personne dans la région des Grandes Lacs is a network focusing on human rights in the Great Lakes Region with members in Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda. For more information, go to www.ldgl.org
The CIVICUS-LDGL submission to the UN Human Rights Council on Burundi click here.
FOR MORE INFORMATION PLEASE CONTACT
Kiva La Touché
Communications Officer, CIVICUS
+ 27 11 833 5959