[JURIST] Burundi’s Constitutional Court ruled Tuesday that President Pierre Nkurunziza [BBC profile] can seek a third term in office without violating the country’s constitution, which states that presidents shall be universally elected into office for a term of five years and can renew the term once. Nkurunziza was appointed to the presidency by the legislature in 2005 and elected by citizens for a second term in 2010. The court reasoned [AP report] that because he was not elected for his first term, Nkurunziza could constitutionally be elected into office once more. But not everyone agrees with the court’s decision. Protesters have demonstrated [AFP report] for over a week against Nkurunziza’s decision to seek another term, leaving at least 13 people dead and nearly 600 arrested. Judge Sylvere Nimpagaritse, the only judge to disagree with the ruling, fled the country to Rwanda fearing death threats. Rwanda’s Foreign Affairs Ministry expressed concern [Rwanda New Times report] over the situation in Burundi and the hundreds of Burundian citizens escaping to their country. US Secretary of State John Kerry [official website] also expressed concerned on Monday over the president’s acting against the constitution. Presidential elections in Burundi are scheduled for June 26.
The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) [official website] expressed concern [JURIST report] Friday over actions by Burundian authorities ahead of its upcoming presidential elections. The OHCHR said last month that the upcoming elections in Burundi place the nation at a critical moment in history [JURIST report], urging the nation to choose democracy in the elections. Burundi has also been criticized for human rights violations and limitations on freedom in the last few years. In February Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] said that Burundian National Defense Forces and police committed at least 47 extrajudicial executions [JURIST report] following confrontation with an armed group in Cibitoke. HRW also said that armed members of the Burundian youth force, known as the Imbonerakure, participated in the executions. Earlier that month, the OHCHR expressed concerns about freedom of expression [JURIST report] in Burundi following the arrest of Bob Rugurika, director of Radio Public Africaine.