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Burundi court releases six police officers convicted of murdering WHO official

[JURIST] A Burundi [JURIST news archive] court Thursday released six former police officers convicted of killing a World Health Organization (WHO) [official website] official because two key witnesses against the accused escaped from custody. In May of 2005, four of the men were sentenced [BBC report] to death and two were sentenced to twenty years in jail for their role in the 2001 murder of WHO representative Kassi Manlan [WHO statement]. The court that convicted the men never formally alleged a motive for the killing, but defense lawyers say it was to prevent Manlan from investigating high-level politicians for defrauding a WHO malaria program. Reuters has more.

Burundi has severe corruption problems, and the research group Global Integrity [website] has given the country an integrity score [Global Integrity materials] of "very weak", amounting to 54 on a 100 point scale. In February of this year, opposition leaders in the country sought UN protection [JURIST report] after allegedly receiving death threats from ruling party officials. In November 2006 President Pierre Nkurunziza [BBC profile] made limited admissions to Amnesty International [advocacy website] accusations [press release; JURIST report] that the military and police used brutality and even torture to deal with suspected rebels. In October 2006 Human Right Watch [advocacy website] accused Burundi’s National Intelligence Service of committing widespread extra-judicial killings [HRW report; JURIST report].

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