High school students targetted as repression continues in Burundi

Expression

The media and freedom of expression are increasingly restricted in Burundi, anyone openly critical of the regime facing serious threats. On 3rd June, 300 high school pupils were suspended from Ruziba Secondary School and further 230 students were suspended on 14th June in Ruyigi after drawing on photos of President Nkurunziza.

On 5th June, Egide Ndayisenga, a journalist with Radio Bonesha, was arrested in Cibitoke and held until 7th June. According to SOS Torture Burundi, on 17 June 2016 another journalist, Julien Barinzigo from Oximity News, was arrested in Kamenge and detained. The current crackdown on dissent and free expression also affects non-journalists: on 2nd July Ildephonse Ndikumwami, a judge in Kirundo, was arrested for allegedly distributing leaflets disparaging President Nkurunziza.

The Press Law (2013) contains numerous restrictions on freedom of expression and the press. It forces the media to divulge the identities of confidential sources, limits the topics the media can report on, and imposes severe fines and penalties for journalists that do not adhere to its stipulations. In May 2015, the East African Court of Justice found the law was in violation of freedom of expression and demanded the Burundian government to repeal or amend problematic provisions. Changes have however yet to be made.

Association

Since the beginning of the current crisis in April 2015, respect for freedom of association has been deliberately eroded in Burundi. The crisis unfolded following President Pierre Nkurunziza’s announcement that he would seek a third term in office, in violation of the constitution and the 2000 Arusha Accords. Civil society was centrally involved in the campaign to prevent the president from security a third term and as a result faced a backlash which forced the vast majority of activists into exile or silence. Many NGOs and media houses have been suspended while others have had their bank accounts frozen.

Those suspected of belonging to opposition movements face  torture and other inhumane treatment at the hands of Burundian police, national intelligence services and the Imboneakure, the ruling party's youth league. For example, on 27 May 2016, Burundian monitoring group SOS Torture reported that two opposition activists with the Movement for Solidarity and Democracy, Léonard Karabona and Emmanuel Mademeza were arrested at Gitasi IDP camp in Ngozi.

Peaceful Assembly

Attempts to peacefully assemble or and protest in Burundi have been brutally repressed since the anti-third term campaign in 2015. Freedom of assembly is constrained by the Public Gatherings Law (2013), which gives Burundian officials the power to deny, defer, or end peaceful demonstrations or meetings if they threaten public order. It also requires civil society to inform authorities of their intention to organise gatherings in advance. The anti-third term protests which began in Burundi in April 2015 were met with violence and brutality. Those who participated or are thought to have participated in those protests are still being targeted to this day. 

In early June, spontaneous protests which broke out in response to the arrest of school children for defacing pictures of the president were met with violence by police who used live ammunition and wounded three protestors.