HRW reports violence in Burundi before referendum
© WikiMedia (US State Department)

HRW reports violence in Burundi before referendum

Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] reported [press release] on Friday that members of Burundi’s security forces and ruling party youth league “killed, raped, abducted, beat, and intimidated suspected opponents in the months leading up to a constitutional referendum.”

The referendum on whether Burundi’s president, Pierre Nkurunziza, can hold office past the two-term limit (potentially allowing him to stay in power until 2034) occurred on Thursday. Nkurunziza has been in office [HRW report] since 2005.

According to the report, security forces and the youth league targeted victims for refusing to contribute funds to Nkurunziza’s campaign, or for not registering for his political party.

HRW interviewed more than 100 people since last February and from these interviews documented 15 murders, six rapes, and eight kidnappings, among other crimes. Of those interviewed, 67 had fled the country. This is an increase from the 19 cases of abuse HRW documented [JURIST report] in a report released last month. “The full scale of abuse is difficult to determine and most likely significantly higher than the cases documented,” said HRW.

HRW urged the Burundian government to hold the perpetrators accountable and to prevent violations by its own forces. The organization called on African leaders to pressure Nkurunziza to end the “violence and repression” in Burundi. Finally, HRW urged the European Union and the United States to expand their targeted sanctions on Burundi and for the UN Security Council to impose sanctions.

In November an International Criminal Court prosecutor was authorized [JURIST report] to investigate crimes against humanity and war crimes in Burundi. In September a UN commission called on [JURIST report] Burundi to end ongoing human rights violations.