Burundi: Bujumbura Accused in Geneva

Bujumbura – “A deep and widespread sense of fear,” this is evidenced by the testimonies gathered by the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi. During the 35th session, an oral report was submitted. This is a second report to the Human Rights Council because the first one was presented at the March session.

The chairman of the commission, Fatsah Ouguergouz, talks about fear and persecution. He also mentions cases of people who are afraid of testifying for fear of reprisals and those who are reluctant to return home despite repeated calls by the Government. “The scope and gravity of human rights violations and abuses in Burundi since April 2015 have been confirmed,” he said.

Because of the lack of access to Burundi, the commission traveled extensively into the countries of the sub-region. Many Burundians in exile were interviewed. In total, more than 470 testimonies of human rights violations have been gathered since April 2015. And since the end of 2016, these violations have been committed in a more discreet but equally brutal way.

The commission reported extrajudicial executions, torture, sexual and gender-based violence, arbitrary arrests and forced detentions and disappearances, often accompanied by demands for ransoms.

The commission said many of these violations have been committed by members of the National Intelligence Service and Police, sometimes assisted by members of the youth league of the ruling party, the Imbonerakure.

The victims are essentially the opponents of the government in place, including members of FNL and MSD political parties. They are targeted regardless of their ethnicity.

Torture

The description of torture sessions contained in the report is horrible: use of clubs, rifle butts, bayonets, iron bars, metal chains and electric cables with the result that some victims’ bones were broken and other victims lost consciousness; needles stuck into victims’ bodies or unidentified products injected into them; nails ripped out with pliers; burns; and many abuses inflicted on male detainees’ genital organs. “In several cases, acts of torture and ill-treatment were accompanied by violent insults and death threats, including of an ethnic nature”, said Fatsah Ouguergouz.

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By Pierre Emmanuel Ngendakumana