U.S. Department of State 2007 Trafficking in Persons Report - Burundi

Burundi (Tier 2 Watch List)

Burundi is a source country for children trafficked within the country for the purposes of child soldiering, domestic servitude, and commercial sexual exploitation. The country continues to emerge from civil war in which government and rebel forces unlawfully used approximately 7,000 children in a variety of capacities, including as cooks, porters, spies, sex slaves, and combatants. The one rebel faction that remained outside the peace process until signing a cease-fire in September 2006, the PALIPEHUTU-FNL (Party for the Liberation of the Hutu People-National Liberation Force – also known as the FNL), continued to recruit and use hundreds of young children as fighters, manual laborers, and logistical support. There are infrequent reports that some government soldiers unlawfully force children to perform menial tasks. Burundian children are trafficked internally for domestic servitude and commercial sexual exploitation; there were reports of destitute parents selling their daughters into domestic servitude or encouraging them to enter prostitution.

The Government of Burundi does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. Burundi is placed on Tier 2 Watch List for its failure to provide evidence of increasing efforts to combat trafficking in persons over the last year, as well as complicity in trafficking in persons through its military's continued practice of forcing children into servitude, performing work in support of the armed forces. To improve its anti-trafficking efforts, the government should investigate the nature of child commercial sexual exploitation and domestic servitude within the country and take steps to remove affected children from these situations. Government forces should immediately cease the unlawful practice of using children to perform menial tasks or act as informants and release detained children suspected of association with the FNL.

Prosecution

The government failed to undertake any discernable anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts during the year. Burundi's laws do not prohibit trafficking in persons, but its criminal code prohibits forced labor, kidnapping, brothel keeping, and pimping. There were no investigations, prosecutions, or convictions under these statutes during the reporting period. In late 2006, a committee comprised of the Second Vice President of the National Assembly, the Minister of Justice's Director of Legislation, NGOs, and civil society completed a preliminary draft of a code outlawing crimes against humanity; the draft was introduced and debated in the National Assembly in November 2006. The proposed statutes contain mandatory sentences of five to 10 years' imprisonment for human trafficking, including such offenses as sexual slavery and forced prostitution. This new legislation will also allow any act of trafficking during times of future conflict or unrest to be considered a war crime. Although official policy prohibits such practices, soldiers reportedly forced children to carry wood and water; police stated that, in at least one case, the soldiers involved faced disciplinary action. The Ministry of Defense confirmed that soldiers with such disciplinary problems would be the first to leave the military during downsizing; however, there are no known cases of such soldiers being encouraged to leave or decommissioned.

Protection

The government does not have a formalized system for identifying victims of trafficking or referring them to organizations that provide protective services. It did not encourage victims to participate in investigations or prosecutions of trafficking offenders; nor did it ensure that victims were not penalized for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked. In mid-April, the government reopened the Randa "Welcome Center," a demobilization camp in Bubanza Province, to house captured or surrendered FNL combatants until the completion of peace negotiations. Without a peace agreement between the government and the rebel group, FNL child combatants could not be demobilized or receive the benefits package afforded to the country's other former child soldiers. By August, the camp housed more than 450 detainees, of which 26 were children; a number of these child victims needed, but did not receive, medical and psychosocial care. Detained children were not separated from adult combatants, placed in school, or provided with constructive activities. During the year, the government also detained more than 100 minors, who were under suspicion of association with the FNL, in prisons and police holding cells across the country; some of them were used by the police and military as informants, thus further jeopardizing their security and prospects for successful reintegration. Twenty-two of these minors remained in detention as of March 2007.

In August, the Ministry of Defense's National Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration (DDR) Commission assumed responsibility for child soldier demobilization from the National Structure for Child Soldiers; the commission turned over day-to-day care of demobilized children to four local NGOs. In November, the commission transferred the 26 children at Randa camp to the government's demobilization center in Gitega, where NGOs provided counseling and family tracing. Though the September 2006 cease-fire agreement between the government and the PALIPEHUTU-FNL requires the rebel group to document the number and location of child soldiers within their ranks, hundreds of children remain with the FNL awaiting identification and demobilization. The government did not provide protective services to any other categories of trafficking victims during the reporting period.

Prevention

The government did not initiate a vigorous public awareness campaign. Nevertheless, in 2006, the Ministry of National Solidarity and Human Rights, in conjunction with the National DDR Commission, began sponsoring weekly radio spots in the major cites and provinces to better educate the population about the perils, consequences, and inhumanity surrounding the recruitment, participation, and forced labor of child soldiers, as well as to dispel the negative stigmas families impose on former child soldiers. Burundi has not ratified the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.

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