Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders Annual Report 2009 - Burundi
|Publisher||International Federation for Human Rights|
|Publication Date||18 June 2009|
|Cite as||International Federation for Human Rights, Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders Annual Report 2009 - Burundi, 18 June 2009, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4a5f300731.html [accessed 9 December 2013]|
|Disclaimer||This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.|
In spite of progress in implementing the peace agreement with the Party for the Liberation of the Hutu People – National Liberation Forces (Parti pour la libération du peuple hutu – Forces nationales de libération – PALIPEHUTU-FNL),1 the last active rebel movement in the country, Burundi continued in 2008 to face a crisis of political dialogue likely to compromise the free and democratic elections due to be held in 2010 and to affect the stability of the country. The United Nations Independent Expert on the human rights situation in Burundi even stigmatised the lack of dialogue between the political parties as creating "a highly explosive situation in Burundi".2 Indeed, despite members of the Front for Democracy in Burundi (Front pour la démocratie au Burundi – FRODEBU) and the Union for National Progress (Union pour le progrès national – UPRONA) entering the Government in November 2007, tensions between the political parties worsened against a background of growing insecurity in the capital, grenade attacks against opposition members of Parliament (MPs) and the continued recruitment of PALIPEHUTU-FNL.3 The replacement in June of 22 opposition MPs, following a decision by the Constitutional Court that was " widely seen as politically inspired rather than legally correct",4 enabled the ruling party to regain its two-thirds majority in the National Assembly and demonstrated its desire to silence the opposition, the media and human rights defenders.
In this context, Burundi civil society associations made public a memorandum in September 2008 expressing their concern regarding the upsurge in criminality and armed attacks, conflicts over land rights and the proliferation of weapons held by the civilian population.5 They also questioned the delays in consultations on implementation of the transitional justice mechanisms and the purpose of a Senate enquiry regarding ethnicity, political affiliation and gender in public services, which was the subject of great controversy amongst politicians and civil society.6
The stands taken by these associations put them in a particularly difficult position.7 They denounced the upsurge in acts of harassment, intimidation, threats, legal red tape and police tailing to which civil society actors are subject and the obstruction of press freedom, which went against the spirit of and will for normalisation of relations between the Government and civil society that had prevailed during the meeting with the President of the Republic in June 2007.
Harassment and acts of intimidation against defenders who denounce corruption and trafficking in natural resources
On December 9, 2008, International Anti-Corruption Day, the Observatory for the Fight Against Corruption and Economic Embezzlement (Observatoire de lutte contre la corruption et les malversations économiques – OLUCOME), an NGO, indicated that it was handling over 470 cases of corruption and economic embezzlement. Due to its denunciation activities, OLUCOME has as a result continued to be the target of blackmail and intimidation, in particular for having denounced the lack of transparency in mineral extraction in the north of the country and the complicity of agents of the Burundi authorities in smuggling activities. Thus, on August 18, 2008, the Bujumbura Prosecutor questioned Mr. Gabriel Rufyiri, President of OLUCOME, and informed him that a judicial enquiry was being opened against him due to his denunciations of corruption involving high State authorities. No charge was brought against him during this hearing, but afterwards he received anonymous messages informing him that everything would be done to charge him, and he learned on August 19 that members of the presidential police force had obtained sound archives for radio Bonesha programmes in which reference was made to his activities. He later received anonymous telephone threats, for which those responsible had still not been identified as at the end of 2008. Furthermore, on August 6, 2008, in Nyamurenza village, in the north of the country, a policeman fired at Mr. Jean Niyongabo, a member of the local supervisory group set up by OLUCOME. Mr. Niyongabo was then severely beaten by police officers and has been handicapped since then. As at the end of 2008, no action had been taken against either the policeman who shot at him or the policemen who beat him.8
Similarly, trade union members and officials who denounced economic and financial embezzlement in 2008, particularly within the Ministry of Justice, were targets of all kinds of harassment, with the general aim of breaking up the trade union movement in Burundi. During the first six months of the year, the Iteka League had already recorded 17 cases of violations in relation to unions, which took the form of unwarranted dismissal, compulsory job transfer and threats against trade union officials. As an example, the Free Trade Union of Workers of the Cotton Management Company (Syndicat libre des travailleurs de la compagnie de gérance du coton – COGERCO) was subjected to a great deal of harassment (principally unwarranted transfers) after it denounced the bad management and cases of embezzlement of which the managing director was guilty. Similarly, Ms. Yolande Ndayongeje, President of the Union of General Management of Prison Affairs (Syndicat de la direction générale des affaires pénitentiaires – SYTRAPEN), was threatened in February 2008 for having denounced cases of bad management and embezzlement that had, however, been confirmed by the State General Inspectorate in its report on February 14, 2008.9 This was also the logic behind the imprisonment of Mr. Juvénal Rududura, an official of the union of non-magistrate staff at the Ministry of Justice, since September 15, 2008 at the Mpimba central prison, for having called for independent enquiries to be opened into a number of injustices committed in the attribution of positions at the Ministry.10
Stigmatisation and judicial harassment of human rights defenders
In 2008, Burundian defenders were exposed to acts of stigmatisation and judicial harassment in the context of a case based on mere accusations, without evidence and with no legal grounds. On July 23, 2008, radio station Rema FM broadcast information accusing two Iteka League staff members of being behind a manipulation plan intending to accuse police and army officers of planning to eliminate members of the opposition party. On the basis of this information, the Prosecution Office at Bujumbura town hall opened a case against Mr. Jean-Marie Vianney Kavumbagu, President of the Iteka League between November 2003 and February 2008, Mr. Joseph Mujiji, Assistant Executive Secretary of the Iteka League, Ms. Chantal Niyokindi, Executive Secretary of the Iteka League, and Mr. Willy Nindorera, a researcher with International Crisis Group. This case appears to have been opened in order to prejudice the Iteka League's human rights work. There had been no developments in this case as at the end of 2008.
Obstacles to denunciations of human rights violations committed by PALIPEHUTU-FNL
In 2008, there continued to be a price to pay for denouncing human rights violations committed by PALIPEHUTU-FNL rebels (thefts, murders and rapes). Once again this year, journalists who investigated human rights violations in the areas controlled by PALIPEHUTU-FNL and who attempted to interview families were vulnerable to threats and reprisals by the rebels. For instance, Mr. Minani Tharcisse, a journalist with Radio publique africaine, was threatened by PALIPEHUTU-FNL soldiers on May 17, 2008 when he tried to interview the family of a chief of the Muyira area in Bujumbura rural province, who had been kidnapped by soldiers from the same movement.
Urgent Intervention issued by The Observatory in 200811
|Names of human rights defenders / NGOs||Violations||Intervention Reference||Date of Issuance|
|Messrs. Gabriel Rufyiri, Jean-Marie Vianney Kavumbagu, Joseph Mujiji, Willy Nindorera and Ms. Chantal Niyokindi||Defamation / Harassment / Intimidation / Threats||Urgent Appeal BDI 001/0808/OBS 140||August 21, 2008|
1 PALIPEHUTU-FNL adopted the name "National Liberation Forces Movement" (Mouvement Forces nationales de libération) at the beginning of January 2009.
2 See Report of the Independent Expert on the human rights situation in Burundi, United Nations Document A/HRC/9/14, August 15, 2008.
3 See Joint Statement by FIDH, the International Union for Human Rights (Union internationale des droits de l'humain – UIDH), the League for Human Rights in the Great Lakes Region (Ligue des droits de la personne dans la région des Grands lacs – LDGL), the Forum for the Reinforcement of Civil Society (Forum pour le renforcement de la société civile – FORSC), the Observatory for Government Action (Observatoire de l'action gouvernementale – OAG) and the Burundi Human Rights Iteka League (Ligue burundaise des droits de l'Homme Iteka), February 18, 2008.
4 See Report of the Independent Expert on the human rights situation in Burundi, United Nations Document A/HRC/9/14, August 15, 2008.
5 See Iteka League Press Release, September 4, 2008.
6 See Human Rights Council, Draft Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review – Burundi, United Document A/HRC/WG.6/3/L.3, December 4, 2008, and Iteka League Press Release, December 3, 2008.
7 See Report of the Independent Expert on the human rights situation in Burundi, United Nations Document A/HRC/9/14, August 15, 2008.
8 See OLUCOME.
9 See Iteka League Press Release, February 2008.
10 See Iteka League.
11 See the Compilation of cases in the CD-Rom attached to this report.