SOS-TORTURE/BURUNDI REPORT NO. 50 PUBLISHED ON 26TH NOVEMBER 2016
SOS-TORTURE/BURUNDI REPORT NO. 50 PUBLISHED ON 26TH NOVEMBER 2016
This SOS-Torture report covers the period ranging from 19th to 26th November 2016 about violations of human rights in Burundi.
The report refers to the military parades of Imbonerakure militiamen affiliated to the ruling political party organized throughout the country and publicly on Saturday 19/11/2016. During these parades, the young militiamen proudly displayed wooden weapons as a demonstration of strength. These parades are very disturbing and confirm the existence of paramilitary training of militiamen and a desire to create fear, especially to people who do not adhere to the ideas of the CNDD-FDD party.
At least thirty-five (35) persons were arrested in various areas. Among them an officer of the Burundian army with the rank of Colonel was arrested illegally by agents of the National Intelligence Service (SNR) while he was still at work. Only military judicial authorities are authorized to carry out arrests of serving members. Among the arrests are also victims of raids in the Musaga zone (south of Bujumbura).
Among the assassinations listed, SOS-Torture Burundi refers to the case of a soldier shot dead in the Ngagara zone by an armed individual. Another case that also attracted attention: a grenade that killed a young child and wounded two others in Bubanza. This grenade belonged to the father of the family, a civilian member of the ruling CNDD-FDD party.
SOS-Torture Burundi also reports on the prison situation in the various detention centers in Burundi. In two months, the number of inmates increased with an increase of 395 more prisoners; from 9,420 detainees to 9,815 inmates between mid-September and mid-November. At this rate, prisoners could reach 10,000 in the near future, which is very alarming given the precarious prison conditions.
Finally, the report concludes with the words of the Director of SOS-Torture Burundi who responds positively to the appointment of the members of the Commission of Inquiry for Burundi by the United Nations Human Rights Council.
1. Youth of the Imbonerakure militiamen in military parades
Demonstrations in all the communes were organized by the ruling party CNDD-FDD on November 19th, 2016 to close a so-called week dedicated to the fighters of this same party which behaves as a single party, during the time it was still a rebel movement. During these demonstrations, the young militiamen carried military effects such as boots, belts and berets without badges.
These imbonerakure militiamen made military parades and demonstrations of force before militants of the ruling party, from political authorities to the top of the state and the population of the localities concerned. SOS-Torture Burundi would like to point out that several of these young people were holding wooden weapons, but they do not doubt that the young demonstrators were trained to handle weapons: pistols, Kalashnikovs, rocket launchers and others. Some images taken by witnesses on the spot in Kayanza, the young militiamen proudly demonstrating:
Military Parades conducted in Ngozi town streets:
This confirms the paramilitary training denounced incessantly in recent years as well as illegal night patrols of these young militiamen, reported in several localities of the country. Also, it is now certain that the so-called week of the combatant was actually aimed at demonstrating the 'military strength' of the CNDD-FDD through its militiamen indoctrinated to the violence and intolerance of any opponent; Especially since the middle age of several young people who parade cannot explain that they fought at the time the party was still an armed movement (between 1995 and 2002). During their parades, besides the imbonerakure militiamen proudly wearing their wooden weapons, they also sang to be ready to fight. SOS-Torture Burundi wishes to underline the danger of this indoctrination of young people, who are permanently in logic of war, whose enemy is the opponent of the CNDD-FDD, facts that recall what happened in the neighboring country Rwanda with the Interahamwe militiamen of the ruling party of the period in Rwanda.
2. Arbitrary arrest, kidnappings and enforced disappearances continue
- Agents of the National Intelligence Service arrested Colonel Dieudonné Dushimagize nicknamed Gangi, an officer of the Burundian army who was in his service at the army headquarters on 18th November 2016. The spokesman for the Police in Burundi announced that Colonel Dushimagize is under investigation for "breach of state security and attempted assassination".
SOS-Torture Burundi reiterates a premeditated procedural violation, as the National Intelligence Service does not have the authority to arrest military personnel still in office. Only military judicial authorities have the prerogatives to carry out such arrests on active military personnel. The officer is from the former Burundian Armed Forces (FAB) and his name is added to the long list of ex-FAB soldiers arrested arbitrarily since the beginning of the crisis in April 2015.
After four days in the SNR cells, Colonel Dushimagize was transferred to the Mpimba central prison in the Musaga zone (south of Bujumbura). Again, no military judicial body has intervened when the law so provides for active military personnel.
Colonel Dieudonné Dushimagizeilligally arrested by SNR Agents
- An armed group forcibly kidnapped seven persons in Buringa Zone, Gihanga commune, Bubanza province (a few kilometers west of Bujumbura) on 20th November 2016. The victims were guards who kept herds of cows. Relatives reported that the seven men were released after military intervention; But the perpetrators were not apprehended or identified.
Since some weeks, several cases of kidnappings committed by armed individuals and moving into groups are recorded in the Bubanza province. The police have not been able to arrest any suspects till now.
- Police agents arrested seven persons on November 22th, 2016 on Mago Hill, Nyabitsinda commune, Ruyigi province (east of the country). Among those arrested on orders of Ruyigi Police Commissioner and the communal administrator of Nyabitsinda is a militant of the FNL opposition party, Joseph Nkurunziza, who is also a hill-local elected. The police invokes a meeting to prepare for the murder of a widow. Relatives report that these charges are not founded and that the arrest is politically motivated.
SOS-Torture Burundi is concerned about the increase of arrests of opposition parties’ activists, in particular the FNL.
- Police agents arrested around 20 young men in quarter 2, Musaga zone (southern Bujumbura) on 23th November 2016. Police officers said they were looking for armed fighters.
SOS-Torture Burundi notes a harassment of the population of the quarter which were active in the demonstration against the third term of the Burundian President Pierre Nkurunzizapar by the police agents who carry out abusive arrests and take advantage to ransom the population.
- Police raided Kinanira quarter 2 (southern Bujumbura) on 24th November 2016. All domestic workers were systematically arrested and required to present their "service cards". It is a document required for a few months to any domestic worker in the city of Bujumbura. Witnesses report that the servants who did not have this card were ransomed of 5,000 Burundi francs each by the police agents in order to be released.
3. Assassinations, summary executions and armed attacks
- A young child was killed by a grenade on Rubira Hill, Mpanda commune, Bubanza province (western part of the country) on November 17th, 2016. Witnesses report that the grenade killed two other children. Children played with the grenade belonging to the father of the family and kept in the house.
SOS-Torture Burundi notes that the father is a civilian, representing CNDD-FDD party in Rubira known as Désiré Sindayigaya. The illegal possession of weapons is at the root of this tragedy, which also draws attention to the fact that members of the ruling party are illigally in possession of weapons. It is also parental irresponsibility to leave weapons within the reach of children. The police must stop that habit of targeting only certain localities considered as protesters of the 3rd mandate during the excavations, rather to disarm the members of the CNDD-FDD party who would illegally possess weapons.
- An armed individual shot and killed a Burundi army soldier in Quarter IV of the Ngagara zone (north of Bujumbura) on the evening of 19 th November 2016. The victim is Corporal Prime Nkengurutse, assigned to the 22nd Gitega Armored Battalion ( centre of country). Witnesses report that the soldier was killed in front of a small shop by an unidentified man who fled justicet after the murder.
Corporal Nkengurutse was on leave at the time of his assassination. He was a member of the former Armed Forces of Burundi (FAB) that many of which have been killed in similar circumstances since the beginning of the crisis and repression. The police have not arrested any suspects to date.
Caporal Nkengurutse, killed by unknown armed individual
- Young Imbonerakure militiamen affiliated to the ruling partyCNDD FDD tortured a young Faustin to death in a village in Gihanga commune, Bubanza province (a few kilometers west of Bujumbura) on the evening of 19th November. Close relatives report that the young man and two friends who accompanied him fell among the militiamen on patrol who savagely beated them with clubs. The two friends of the victim managed to escape, but Faustin suffered his wounds.
SOS-Torture Burundi again denounces the criminal practices of the Imbonerakure militiamen who are acting with full impunity. These militiamen of the CNDD FDD have no right to conduct patrols, a task reserved to members of the defense and security forces. The administration and the police displayed unprecedented complicity in letting these militiamen torture defenseless citizens. This complicity extends to the public prosecutor's office, which has not taken any action to bring the alleged criminals to justice despite the existence of witnesses.
- Individuals armed with clubs and machetes attacked households on Muyange Hill, Nyabihanga commune, Mwaro province (center of the country) on the evening of 21st November 2016. They wounded five persons, among them some seriously injured while attempting to steal property and livestock. No suspects were arrested.
4. Burundi’s prison situation remain explosive
The overall prison situation in mid-November shows a steady increase in the number of prisoners in Burundi prisons. The summary situation shows 9,815 detainees in mid-November for an unchanged accommodation capacity of 4,194 inmates.
This situation is very alarming because it shows an increase of 395 more prisoners compared to the last prison situation published by SOS-Torture Burundi in mid-September. Two months ago, Burundi's prisons had 9,420 detainees (see SOS-Torture Burundi report No. 42: http://sostortureburundi.over-blog.com/2016/10/rapport-n-42-de-la- Campaign-sos-torture-burundi-published-1st-october-2016.html). As in previous months, the number of accused (5.165) exceeds that of convicted persons (4.521).
SOS-Torture Burundi is concerned that the trend remains on the rise as cases in the courts are slowed down. The current crisis is marked by numerous arbitrary arrests, resulting in several hundred detainees remaining in prison without any hope of having their trial scheduled. Prison overcrowding also undermines the hygienic and health conditions of prisoners in confined spaces. At this rate, there is a high risk that prisoners will reach 10,000 within a few months.
Overall prison situations compared to mid-September (left) and mid-November (right)
See overall prison’s situation on mid-november 2016 :
4965 + 200 = 5165
4294 + 227 = 4521
55 + 11 = 66
58 + 5 = 63
30 + 34 = 64
5. SOS-Torture Burundi is pleased with the decision of the Human Rights Council to appoint a Commission of Inquiry on Burundi
Counsel Armel NIYONGERE, one of Burundian human defenders rights who participated in the session of the Human Rights Council at the time of the adoption of a resolution setting up this Commission of Inquiry and who had pleaded for this Commission, welcomes the appointment of three Commissioners. They were appointed by the same Council on 22th November 2016:
"I welcome the appointment of the three Commissioners because it shows the involvement of the United Nations and especially the International Community on the situation in Burundi. At the session of the Human Rights Council after the presentation of the report of the independent experts of the United Nations in September, I showed to the Council that the situation in Burundi continues to deteriorate, that we documented many cases of Human rights violations including torture, sexual violence, forced disappearances, extrajudicial executions, arbitrary arrests, etc. In the face of these international crimes, the international community should stand up to protect the people of Burundi. We are very pleased with the adoption of this resolution setting up the Commission of Inquiry.
Now as these Commissioners have been appointed, they should soon begin their mission to investigate and qualify crimes, without forgetting the identification and establishment of the responsibility of perpetrators. They really have a very strategic mandate in relation to other commissions already set up with a judicial character and their report can also serve international jurisdictions such as the International Criminal Court.
The government of Burundi has already taken a stand by declaring that it will not collaborate with this commission which was set up without consensus according to the argument put forward; But I would like to point out that the government has a duty to cooperate with this commission. While the Committee of Inquiry persists in refusing to cooperate, it will use other mechanisms to obtain information on their mandates. The government has already shown that it is afraid of independent and impartial international commissions of inquiry and jurisdictions for having participated in crimes committed in Burundi since April 2015. There are authorities that fear being identified as authors and risk being prosecuted. This, however, will not prevent this Commission from working especially since these Commissioners are personalities with considerable experience in this field.
As a human rights defender, we are ready to cooperate and to put at the disposal of these Commissioners all the elements related to the violations of human rights. We must all stand up to fight impunity in Burundi and live in a country without violence, and that the perpetrators of these despicable crimes being prosecuted and brought to justice one day. "