CIVICUS

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Burundi

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Last updated on 23.07.2018 at 09:18

Burundi-Overview

Space for civil society and citizen activism has been almost totally destroyed following a government crackdown in 2015 when citizens protested against the incumbent president’s bid for a third term. Many ordinary civilians and civil society activists have been killed, police have repeatedly used excessive force against protestors and detainees have been brutally tortured.

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Jailed human rights defender denied treatment

A human rights defender who has been in prison for a year was forcefully removed from hospital before making full recovery, while the right to education for girls is under attack.

Association

On 18th June 2018, human rights defender Germain Rukuki, who has been in detention since his arrest on 13th July 2017, was forcibly removed from a hospital by security officials one week after receiving surgery on his leg, before his full recovery.  He could not walk unassisted, and his foot was still bandaged. Although he applied for bail on 26th June in order to receive medical treatment and rehabilitation care in hospital, at the time of writing this update, his bail had not been issued.

As previously reported in the Monitor, in a move decried by civil society and UN experts, on 28th April Rukuki was sentenced to 32 years in prison for his alleged involvement in a 2015 coup attempt.

Association in Burundi

Burundian civil society grew in size and influence after the mid-1990s and made important contributions to deepening democracy, including during free and fair elections in 2005 when the civil war ended.

Burundian civil society grew in size and influence after the mid-1990s and made important contributions to deepening democracy, including during free and fair elections in 2005 when the civil war ended. As a consequence of its influence, organised civil society has been one of the main targets of the government’s latest crackdown. In 2016, the authorities continue to harass, arrest, brutalise and in some cases detain, kill or cause the disappearance of civil society leaders as well as individual activists (including students) who took part in the anti-third term demonstrations in April 2015. Following the attempted assassination of prominent human rights defender Pierre Claver Mponimba in August 2015, two members of his family were brutally murdered. In November 2015, the government froze the bank accounts of fourteen prominent CSOs, including several human rights organisations, a move which has seriously impeded civil society’s ability to conduct human rights monitoring and advocacy. As a climate of fear prevails, many civil society leaders have been forced into exile in order to avoid arrests, violent attacks and assassination attempts. Enforced disappearances of human rights defenders are also a concern. For example, Marie-Claudette Kwizera, treasurer of a prominent human rights organisation, Iteka League, was allegedly abducted by the National Intelligence Services on 10 December 2015 and remains unaccounted for.


Peaceful Assembly in Burundi

Even though article 30 of Burundi’s constitution protects the right to peaceful assembly, public demonstrations in Burundi have become almost impossible in the wake of the sustained use of excessive force by security forces.

Even though article 30 of Burundi’s constitution protects the right to peaceful assembly, public demonstrations in Burundi have become almost impossible in the wake of the sustained use of excessive force by security forces. Peaceful demonstrations in April 2015 against an extension of the president’s mandate sparked a brutal assault by police on demonstrators, during which they were recorded using live ammunition, shooting people at point blank range and even shooting demonstrators in the back as they ran away. Other threats to the freedom of assembly come from a regressive public gatherings law which prevents spontaneous gatherings, and impunity for frequent assaults on demonstrators by non-state actors, including by the ruling party’s youth wing Imbonerakure.


Expression in Burundi

Prior to the crackdown on free media in 2015, Burundi’s World Press Freedom Ranking was already a lowly 142nd, having been as high as 72nd a decade earlier.

Prior to the crackdown on free media in 2015, Burundi’s World Press Freedom Ranking was already a lowly 142nd, having been as high as 72nd a decade earlier. In a clear violation of constitutional protections, the government has stamped out most if not all independent journalism in Burundi through the closure of radio stations and attacks on individual journalists. As traditional media have been closed off, reporters have formed a new online reporting collective, SOS Médias Burundi which continues to provide reports on human rights violations within the country through social media channels. With Internet penetration at just 1.4%, for most Burundians news other than state propaganda is hard to access.