[JURIST] Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International [advocacy websites] and 60 other groups on Friday urged the Burundian government [joint statement text; press release] to repeal a new law criminalizing homosexuality [JURIST news archive] in the country. The law was promulgated by President Pierre Nkurunziza [BBC profile] on April 22, and subjects those found guilty of engaging in a homosexual relationship to a fine or up to two years in prison, or both. The groups said that the law violates the Burundi Constitution, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights [texts] and would harm anti-AIDS efforts in the country:
We consider the law to violate the rights to privacy and freedom from discrimination protected by Burundi's Constitution and enshrined in its international treaty commitments, notably the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We deeply regret that the Burundian government has made a decision that writes human rights violations into law.
We regret that the law will hamper Burundi's attempts to fight AIDS, by further marginalizing an at-risk population.
We respectfully remind the Government of Burundi that according to the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, arrests on the basis of sexual orientation are, by definition, human rights violations. We will carefully monitor any arrests made on the basis of this law.
The law was passed [JURIST report] by the country's National Assembly in November despite being rejected by the Burundi Senate the previous February.
Homosexuality is legally controversial around the world. In December, 66 members of the UN General Assembly [official website] signed a statement [press release; JURIST report] calling for it to be decriminalized where it is illegal, but nearly 60 nations signed an opposing statement. In March the administration of US President Barack Obama has said that it would also sign [DOS release; JURIST report] the statement calling for its decriminalization, reversing a Bush administration position.