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Burundi colonel sentenced to death for 2006 killings

[JURIST] A Burundi military court Thursday sentenced Colonel Vital Bangirinama [Human Rights Watch backgrounder] to death for his role in the 2006 killings of 31 civilians in Muyinga province. Human rights groups, which had previously criticized the Burundi government [CIA backgrounder] for not actively prosecuting its own military officers for war crimes, applauded the prosecution. Bangirinama is reported to have fled the country and was sentenced in absentia. Three other military officers received life in prison for their role in the atrocities. Reuters has more. All Africa has local coverage.

The Muyinga massacre [Human Rights Watch backgrounder] occurred in July and August 2006 when 31 civilians were killed while in official custody in northern Burundi. According to Human Rights Watch [advocacy website], witnesses reported intelligence agents detained and questioned the victims at a military camp for weeks before soldiers killed them and threw their bodies into the Ruvubu river. Burundi government officials denied the killings until researchers from human rights organizations found decomposing bodies in the river.

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