HRW: Burundi forces committing extrajudicial executions

HRW: Burundi forces committing extrajudicial executions

[JURIST] Burundian National Defense Forces and police have committed at least 47 extrajudicial executions following a confrontation with an armed group in Cibitoke, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] said [press release] Thursday. HRW also said that armed members of the Burundian youth force, known as the Imbonerakure [TRAC backgrounder], participated in the executions. HRW believes that the armed confrontation began in late December, lasting approximately four or five days. In early January members of the opposition force surrendered to Burundian forces or the police or were turned in by locals, and most of those who surrendered were reportedly killed. The Africa director of HRW, Daniel Bekele, said that “[i]t appears that members of the military and police made no effort to arrest most of the men who surrendered, shooting them dead instead.” HRW believes that these executions are the latest developments in a pattern of unlawful executions committed by Burundian forces, citing an 81-page report [text, PDF] published in 2012 that documented political killings following the 2010 elections. However, the spokesman for the Burundian forces denied that anyone was killed after the surrender.

This is the latest in a string of accusations against Burundi for human rights violations and limitations on freedom. Last week the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) [official website] expressed concerns [JURIST report] about freedom of expression in Burundi following the arrest of Bob Rugurika, director of Radio Public Africaine [media website]. In November the OHCHR reported that human rights activists in Burundi are treated as political opponents [JURIST report] by the state and subject to physical threats, anonymous phone calls, arbitrary arrests, assaults and judicial harassment. In June 2013 Burundi lawmakers passed [JURIST report] a media law that restricted journalistic freedom by limiting topics that can be reported and reducing the protection afforded to sources. The bill prohibited stories that could affect Burundi’s “national unity; public order and security; morality and good conduct; honor and human dignity; national sovereignty; the privacy of individuals; the presumption of innocence” or issues involving “propaganda of the enemy of the Burundian nation in times of peace as of war” and “information that could affect the credit of the state and the national economy.” In July 2010 Transparency International [advocacy website] named [JURIST report] Burundi the most corrupt East-African nation with a corruption index of 36.7 percent. In August 2009 HRW urged [JURIST report] Burundi to punish human rights violators from their country’s 16-year armed conflict.