Crackdown on civil society continues: UN office ordered to leave, major NGO ceases operations
[STATEMENT] Civil society organisations demand HRD Germain #Rukuki's acquittal in #Burundi 👉https://t.co/pDZaDbID5C He was unlawfully sentenced to 32yrs in prison and his appeal hearing took place today in Ngozi. FREE Germain Rukuki! #wearealldefenders #DefendersNotCriminals pic.twitter.com/h7tBHxeHVF— Protection Int'l (@ProtectionInt) November 26, 2018
On 26th November 2018, human rights defender Germain Rukuki's appeal was heard by the Bujumbura Court of Appeal, who afterwards adjourned the case to a later date for judgment. African Union observers were present and no security incidents were reported. As previously documented, Rukuki was arrested and sentenced to 32 years in prison on 26 April 2018, on charges of participation in an insurrectionist movement, undermining state security, and rebellion, in a process that was largely criticised by civil society for violating his right to a fair trial.
#Burundi's government has ordered the U.N. human rights team to leave the country in 2 months and the office shut down immediately.— iBurundi (@iburundi) December 6, 2018
We wonder what the other UN agencies @un_burundi think about this. cc @UNPeacekeeping | @UNPeacebuilding |@ConilleGarry https://t.co/9OwwoN6DCJ
On 5th December 2018, the government ordered the United Nations Human Rights Council to shut down its office in the country within two months, demonstrating increasing intolerance to international human right systems. In 2017, Burundi became the first nation to leave the International Criminal Court, and in September 2018 threatened to quit the Human Rights Council altogether after another report pointed to crimes against humanity in the country.
In a fairly similar incident, on 7th January 2019, following the expiration of the government's deadline ultimatum for NGOs to comply with new laws governing the sector, French NGO Handicap International (HI) announced it would cease its operations in Burundi. According to a press release issued by the organisation, the obligation to record the ethnic composition of its staff and to communicate this information to the authorities constitutes a red line that HI does not wish to cross. As previously reported on the Monitor, in October 2018, the government suspended the activities of all international NGOs active in the country, demanding that the organisations undergo a new registration exercise, and that they adhere to controversial ethnic hiring quotas. In November 2018, the government lifted the suspension of 25 NGOs after they comply with the re-registration requirements.
Burundi acquits rights activists sentenced to 10-year terms— New Vision UGANDA (@newvisionwire) December 27, 2018
Emmanuel Nshimirimana, Aime Constant Gatore and Marius Nizigiyimana, members of the campaign group Parcem, had been planning a human rights workshop when they were arrested in June 2017.... https://t.co/xeDKp0kHsf
In positive developments, on 27th December 2018, a Burundian court acquitted three HRDs who had each been handed 10 year jail sentences for undermining state security. Emmanuel Nshimirimana, Aimé Constant Gatore, and Marius Nizigiyimana, members of Parcem - one of the few remaining CSOs in the country, had been planning a human rights workshop when they were arrested in June 2017.
In mid-December 2018, Justice Minister Laurentine Kanyana dismissed a BBC documentary, terming it as a 'fake report' and demanded that the broadcaster pull it down and pay damages to those it slandered. The documentary titled: ‘Inside Burundi’s Killing Machine’ alleges the systematic killing of opposition members by the police and intelligence units in secret torture facilities. The Minister also said that the Burundian government intends to sue the BBC for what they consider is fake investigative reporting.