The Burundi Human Rights Initiative

Joint statements and letters

Open letter: the EU should honor its commitments to human rights in Burundi

Dear High Representative,
Dear Foreign Ministers,

As the Council of the European Union (EU) and its preparatory bodies review the situation in Burundi and related EU policy, the undersigned organizations wish to express their concern that the EU and some of its member states appear willing to overlook the lack of meaningful human rights progress and widespread impunity for past and ongoing serious human rights violations in the country.

Despite a series of recent one-off gestures by the Burundian government regarding public freedoms, the Council should maintain its position that sustainable and tangible progress regarding the opening of political and civic space and the fight against impunity are necessary to address fundamental human rights concerns in Burundi. The EU should not rely on promises of human rights reforms from the Burundian authorities, and insist instead that they meet concrete benchmarks proving their commitment to ensuring accountability and embarking on a human rights- respecting path.

Burundi: Once again, human rights defender Germain Rukuki’s right to a fair trial is violated

Appeal to the Authorities of Burundi

We, the undersigned organisations, express our dismay that the Burundian Appeals Court of Ntahangwa has not yet announced a verdict in the case of human rights defender Mr. Germain Rukuki. According to legal statutes, this verdict was due within 30 days of the appeal hearing, by . This undue delay adds to the litany of irregularities that have characterised the legal proceedings in this case since the arrest of Mr. Rukuki in , and further compounds the violation of Mr. Rukuki’s right to a fair trial and due process.

On , the Supreme Court of Burundi set aside the ruling by the Appeals Court to uphold the 32-year sentence in Mr. Rukuki’s case and ordered a second appeal hearing, citing violations to his right to a fair trial. This second appeal hearing took place 8 months later on in Ngozi prison, where Mr. Rukuki is currently detained. According to the Burundian Code of Criminal Procedure, following the hearing the Court has 30 days to return a verdict on the case, but this verdict is still pending nearly 60 days later. This delay clearly demonstrates a lack of due process in the case of the internationally recognised human rights defender and political prisoner.

Burundi: Sixty-five organizations call for immediate release of Iwacu journalists

On the first anniversary of their arrest, 65 organizations call for the immediate and unconditional release of the Iwacu journalists Agnès Ndirubusa, Christine Kamikazi, Egide Harerimana and Térence Mpozenzi who were convicted on charges against state security for simply doing their job. Their continued detention on baseless charges is a stark reminder that, despite a recent change in leadership, the Burundian government has little tolerance for independent journalism and free speech, the organizations said.

On , the four journalists were arrested along with their driver Adolphe Masabarakiza as they went to report on clashes between the security forces and an armed group in Bubanza province. Although they had informed the provincial authorities of their plan to travel to the area, they were arrested on arrival and later accused of threatening internal state security. However, during the trial, the prosecution presented no evidence of the journalists having any contact with the armed group.

Burundi: Vital role of the Commission of Inquiry in prompting meaningful human rights progress

To Permanent Representatives of Member and Observer States of the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council, Geneva, Switzerland

Excellencies,

Ahead of the 45th session of the UN Human Rights Council (hereafter “HRC” or “the Council”), we, the undersigned national, regional and international civil society organisations, write to urge your delegation to support the renewal of the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) on Burundi. In the context of recent political developments, such a renewal, building off the investments to date in and from the CoI, would provide the best opportunity to prompt meaningful human rights progress in Burundi.

As of today, the CoI remains the only independent mechanism mandated to document human rights violations and abuses (including on their extent and whether they may constitute crimes under international law), monitor, and publicly report on the situation in Burundi, with sufficient resources and experience to do so. Changing political realities do not amount to systemic human rights change, and the Council has a responsibility to continue supporting victims and survivors of violations and working to improve the situation in Burundi.