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Quarterly report on the human rights situation in Burundi

Quarterly report on the human rights situation in Burundi

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by April 30, 2020 Quarterly Report

 

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The first quarter of the year 2020 was characterized by new political, security and socio-economic developments in an increasingly tense pre-electoral context.

 

The political scene was marked at the beginning of the quarter by the nomination of the CNDD-FDD candidate for the 2020 elections, General Evariste Ndayishimiye, at the extraordinary congress of this party held in Gitega on 26 January 2020. This choice put an end to several speculations, some of them prophetic, on a probable fourth term of office for outgoing President Pierre Nkurunziza. The latter had solemnly pledged not to stand in the 2020 elections even though the controversial new constitution of 7 June 2018 guaranteed him two more 7-year terms, which still raised doubts in public opinion. 

 

From 25 February 2020, INEC began receiving the files of candidates for the presidential election until 5 March 2020. However, the field of electoral competition remains undermined by a climate of intolerance, fear, suspicion and violence.

 

Thus, CENI quickly found itself under the spotlight of sharp criticism after having rejected, rightly or wrongly, on 10 March 2020, four out of the ten registered presidential candidates’ files, including that of former President Domitien Ndayizeye presented by the “Kira Burundi” coalition. The Constitutional Court having been seized, only validated that of Domitien Ndayizeye on 19 March 2020.

 

At the legislative level, 33 candidates have submitted their files including 13 political parties, 2 coalitions and 18 Independents. The candidatures rejected by INEC which were appealed to the Constitutional Court were invalidated on 27 March 2020 for the most part to the great disappointment of those concerned. But those of the Kira-Burundi Coalition partially validated[1].

 

The disappointment is stronger in six exiled CNDD-FDD slayers, including its former President, Jérémie NGENDAKUMANA, who wanted to participate in the elections but that the government unjustly denied them the right to return to Burundi in February 2020.[2]

 

On the sidelines of the candidates for elections, there are political leaders who question the credibility of the electoral process and refuse to participate in the elections. This is the CNDD of Leonard Nyangoma who made the decision not to participate in the elections “badly organized from the beginning, even the composition of the CENI does not reassure»[3].

 

 

 

The other political leaders boycotting the elections as a result of the political dialogue Deadlock are those of the cfor Arusha Coalition[4] in exile, composed of some parties and political leaders of the former opposition platform CNARED, after its breakup in 2019. They remain opposed to the Constitution of 7 June 2018 that permanently buries the Arusha Agreement for peace and Reconciliation in Burundi signed in August 2000.[5]

 

Even more worrisome, the electoral process is being prepared in an environment characterized by acts of assassinations, extrajudicial executions and enforced disappearances without criminals being sought for prosecution, arrest and punishment in accordance with the law.

 

The emblematic event illustrating this safe drift is the summary execution of about twenty people in the municipalities of Isale and Nyabiraba, province of Bujumbura said rural between February 19 and 20, 2020. The latter were presented to the public by the police as members of an armed group to disguise the crime. Indeed, the witnesses report, with supporting images, that police and militiamen killed these alleged Rebels at close range, after having captured and tied them up.

 

In terms of the exercise of public rights and freedoms, the trend of blocking the political space that characterized the previous quarters remains constant. Members of Agathon Rwasa’S CNL Party (National Council for Freedom), a political group perceived as the main challenger of CNDD-FDD in elections, are most targeted by acts of harassment, assault on physical integrity and arbitrary arrests. The perpetrators of these acts are law enforcement officials acting in complicity with the Imbonerakure militiamen and with impunity.

 

Journalists also remain the target of arbitrary arrests and convictions because it was during this first quarter of 2020 that the four journalists of the IWACU Press group were sentenced to two and a half years of imprisonment by the High Court of Bubanza (west of the country) on January 30, 2020. They had been arrested on 22 October 2019 while covering the incursion of Burundian rebels from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

 

Previously, Isanganiro radio journalist Blaise Pascal Kararumiye had been illegally arrested in Karusi province by order of the governor of that province on 17 January 2020. He will be released on January 20, 2020 after “appearing” before the governor of Karusi, his advisers, the municipal administrators of the province as well as the prosecutor of Karusi.

 

On the economic front, the most striking fact is the measure taken by the Bank of the Republic of Burundi (BRB) to close definitively on 15 February 2020 all exchange offices. According to an economist expert, ” the country is facing a glaring shortage of currencies and the central bank is trying to control all currencies that enter the country and to combat the depreciation of the Burundian franc against the dollar by authoritarian measures . ” Indeed, in previous quarters, “tensions in the foreign exchange market continued with a more pronounced decline in foreign exchange reserves and a negative impact on imports. International reserves covered only 0.9 months of imports in June 2019 ».[6]

 

These measures have disrupted cross-border trade, in particular by police checks imposing on travellers a new formality of checking the banks where currency exchanges have taken place. Some traders inside the country also complained of having a 70% lower turnover%.[7]

 

Other measures continue to have a negative impact on people’s living conditions, such as forced contributions to finance the 2020 elections. While in 2019, President Pierre Nkurunziza had put an end to these forced contributions, the NGO International Crisis Group (ICG) revealed in a public report that these contributions continue to be collected by some administrative and that members of opposition parties are forced to contribute to avoid conflicts with the administrative one month before the elections. [8]

 

The deterioration of the situation in Burundi is being followed with concern by the international community where, during the interactive debate on Burundi in Geneva on 9 March 2020, the United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Burundi revisited the risk factors related to an unstable political, economic and security environment, a degraded economy, a population forced by the Imbonerakure and local authorities to make contributions to the ruling party. She also referred to the humanitarian situation, with 336,000 refugees still living in neighbouring countries. Many delegations denounced serious human rights violations throughout the country, including extrajudicial executions and arbitrary arrests. Several delegations considered the recent events to be particularly serious, including reprisals against civil society and journalists.[9]

 

In a European Parliament resolution on Burundi published on 16 January 2020, it is established that Burundi is one of the poorest countries on the planet, that 74.7% of its population lives in poverty, and that it ranks 185th out of 189 in the Human Development Index; that more than 50 per cent of the population of Burundi is facing chronic food insecurity, that almost half of the population is under the age of fifteen and that in 2019 alone, more than eight million people have contracted malaria, including 3,000 people who have died from the disease ; that poverty, poor social services, high youth unemployment and lack of opportunities remain sources of violence in the country.[10]

 

Finally, the other contextual fact of the quarter, with still uncertain consequences, is the pandemic of Covid – 19, which is devastating the world and whose preventive measures taken by the Government of Burundi are insufficient, including the decision to continue the electoral process at a time when votes are raised here and there to postpone them.

 

In this report for the first quarter of 2020, SOS-TORTURE BURUNDI identified 41 victims of violations of the right to life, 48 cases of arbitrary arrest, 9 cases of torture, 5 cases of abduction or enforced disappearance.

RECOMMANDATIONS

To Government of Burundi :

 

  • Conduct thorough investigations in order to arrest and prosecute alleged perpetrators of extrajudicial killings, murders whose bodies are discovered in various locations, as well as alleged perpetrators of abductions and torture ;

 

  • Take all necessary measures to immediately stop persecution of opposition activists ;

 

  • Respect the exercise of citizens ‘ rights and freedoms by releasing without conditions and without delay the journalists of the IWACU press group: Agnes Ndirubusa, Christine Kamikazi, Egide Harerimana and Terence Mpozenzi unjustly sentenced to two and a half years in prison; as well as other unjustly sentenced human rights defenders such as Germain Rukuki and Nestor Nibitanga ;

 

  • Put in place the necessary politico-administrative measures for the organization of peaceful, pluralistic, free and transparent elections to enable the country to emerge from the crisis ;

 

  • Opening up the democratic space by guaranteeing political parties, civil society and the media the exercise of the rights and freedoms guaranteed by national, regional and international texts ;

 

  • Cooperate fully with national, regional and international human rights mechanisms for the implementation of Human Rights Council resolutions and collaborate with the International Criminal Court (ICC).

 

 

To the East African Community:

 

  • Closely monitor the ongoing electoral process in order to better prevent violations like those that prevailed in 2015;

 

  • Learn from the failures of the inter-Burundian dialogue as a sponsor of the Arusha Peace Agreement and engage other multilateral partners for an effective inclusive dialogue among all Burundian actors with a view to consolidating the achievements of the fundamental principles of the agreement for peace and reconciliation signed in Arusha in 2000 and the 2005 constitution;

 

 

To the international community:

 

  • Take the necessary economic, political and diplomatic measures to bring the government of Burundi to comply with its international commitments, and make a concrete and verifiable commitment to the return of the rule of law and to the Arusha Agreement ;

 

  • Support the work of the International Criminal Court to complete the investigations begun in Burundi with a view to the prompt prosecution of perpetrators of serious crimes committed since the outbreak of the crisis in Burundi in 2015 ;

 

  • Take appropriate measures to urge the Burundian authorities to cooperate fully with the United Nations mechanisms and the ICC ; Take the necessary economic, political and diplomatic measures to bring the government of Burundi to comply with its international commitments, and make a concrete and verifiable commitment to the return of the rule of law and to the Arusha Agreement ;

 

  • Support the work of the International Criminal Court to complete the investigations begun in Burundi with a view to the prompt prosecution of perpetrators of serious crimes committed since the outbreak of the crisis in Burundi in 2015 ;

 

  • Take appropriate measures to urge the Burundian authorities to cooperate fully with the United Nations mechanisms and the ICC.

[1] https://www.iwacu-burundi.org/burundi-elections-2020-la-cour-constitutionnelle-invalide-plusieurs-candidatures-au-legislatives/

[2] https://www.iwacu-burundi.org/jeremie-ngendakumana-triste-de-voir-un-etat-qui-empeche-ses-citoyens-de-rentrer-dans-leur-pays/

[3]  https://www.iwacu-burundi.org/elections-2020-le-cndd-de-leonard-nyangoma-accuse-deja-la-ceni-de-fraude-et-se-retire/

 

[4] Coalition des Forces de l’Opposition Burundaise pour le Rétablissement de l’Accord d’Arusha.

[5] https://www.sosmediasburundi.org/2019/10/18/burundi-la-coalition-cfor-arusha-trouve-que-la-nouvelle-constitution-ne-permet-pas-une-competition-democratique-et-plurielle/

 

[6] https://www.banquemondiale.org/fr/country/burundi/overview

[7] https://www.iwacu-burundi.org/nouvelles-mesures-de-change-de-devises-la-brb-detruit-notre-business/

[8] https://www.sosmediasburundi.org/2020/04/09/burundi-elections-icg-denonce-des-contributions-forcees/

[9]  https://reliefweb.int/report/burundi/le-conseil-des-droits-de-lhomme-dialogue-avec-les-commissions-denqu-te-sur-la-syrie

 

[10] https://www.europarl.europa.eu/doceo/document/TA-9-2020-0011_FR.pdf

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