BURUNDI — The inauguration of Evariste Ndayishimiye as Burundi’s next president is an opportunity to restore respect for human rights in the country by reopening the civic space, ending crimes under international law and human rights violations by security services and the ruling party’s youth wing the Imbonerakure, Amnesty International today said today.
Amnesty International has urged President Ndayishimiye to immediately and unconditionally release all those imprisoned for simply exercising their human rights including Germain Rukuki, a human rights defender who is serving a record-breaking 32-year jail term for his work with an anti-torture organization.
“Evariste Ndayishimiye has a chance to improve Burundi’s appalling human rights record. A good place to start is to immediately and unconditionally release all those who have been convicted on trumped up charges simply for exercising their human rights,” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Director for Eastern and Southern Africa.
“We urge President Ndayishimiye to end the repression that characterized the previous government’s tenure and restore respect for the human rights of all people in Burundi.”
Also imprisoned for exercising press freedom are four journalists, Agnès Ndirubusa, Christine Kamikazi, Egide Harerimana and Térence Mpozenzi, who on 30 January were sentenced to two and a half years in prison and fined one million Burundian francs (approximately 525 USD) each. They all worked for Iwacu Press Group, one of Burundi’s few remaining independent media houses, and were punished for attempting to report on deadly clashes in the north-western part of the country.
Amnesty International is now calling for their immediate and unconditional release.
The authorities must also account for the whereabouts and fate of another journalist from Iwacu, Jean Bigirimana, who has been missing since July 2016.
Amnesty International claims that the youth wing of the CNDD-FDD ruling party, the “Imbonerakure’, is notorious for blatantly committing human rights violations, including killings, arbitrary arrests, beatings, and terrorizing people through harassment, intimidation and extortion.
Ending their involvement in security activities should be another priority for President Ndayishimiye, Amnesty International adds.
“It is imperative for the authorities in Burundi to demobilize the dreaded Imbonerakure and ensure that official security forces respect the law and safeguard human rights,” said Deprose Muchena.
“The authorities should begin by conducting prompt, impartial, independent and transparent investigations into crimes under international law and human rights violations that have destroyed countless lives and forced thousands upon thousands to flee the country,” says Amnesty International adding that: “members of both the formal and informal security forces suspected of responsibility for such violations must be held accountable”.
Government officials who ordered or condoned such crimes should be suspended from office pending investigations, and where there is sufficient admissible evidence, prosecuted in fair trials before ordinary civilian courts.
“Before the start of the crisis in 2015, Burundi was home to a burgeoning and outspoken civil society. President Ndayishimiye should commit to fostering respect for freedom of expression so that healthy debate can flourish and contribute to the development of the country,” Deprose Muchena said.
Over several years, the Government of Burundi has taken an increasingly isolationist approach on the world stage. President Ndayishimiye should re-engage with intergovernmental organisations in the region and the international community. Among other human rights incentives, this would ensure that the authorities in Burundi are well equipped to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Evariste Ndayishimiye was elected in presidential elections on 20 May 2020. His election was confirmed by the constitutional court on 4 June, and his inauguration had been scheduled for 20 August 2020.
Due the late President Pierre Nkurunziza’s sudden death on Monday 8 June, the Constitutional Court, on 12 June, ruled that his inauguration should take place as soon as possible and is now scheduled for 18 June.