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Burundi: Summary of human rights concerns

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AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL 22/09/2002
 
Burundi: Summary of human rights concerns
 
1. Extrajudicial executions and unlawful killings of
civilians by government forces
Despite the Peace Accord and the inauguration of the
first phase of the transitional government, civilians
continue to pay a heavy price in the conflict.
Between January and April 2002, Amnesty International
documented the killing of over 100 unarmed civilians,
including children, in a pattern of systematic
reprisal killings by government troops during or
following counter-insurgency operations.
New extrajudicial executions have taken place since,
including those of at least 19 unarmed civilians, - -
among whom were six women and five children - - in
Kanyosha commune on 4 August 2002. At least 14
civilians were also killed in Gihosha rural by members
of the armed forces on 25 August 2002 apparently in
reprisal for an attack earlier in the day by
PALIPEHUTU-FNL on a military position in the vicinity
in which four soldiers were killed.
Recommendation: The government must take immediate
steps to halt extrajudicial executions and to ensure
efforts are made to distinguish civilians from
combatants. In particular, they must issue clear
public statements that extrajudicial executions will
not be tolerated and ensure that individuals suspected
of responsibility for ordering or carrying out
extrajudicial executions are immediately suspended
from their duties and brought to justice.
2. Abuses by armed political groups
Both the Forces nationales de libération
(PALIPEHUTU-FNL), National Liberation Forces, and the
- Forces Conseil National pour la Défense de la
Démocratie -Forces pour la Défense de la Démocratie
(CNDD-FDD), National Council for the Defence of
Democracy - Forces for the Defence of Democracy,
continue to carry out serious human rights abuses.
These abuses include unlawful killings of civilians,
torture, including rape, ill-treatment and the use of
child soldiers. Amnesty International has consistently
reported on and condemned these abuses and repeatedly
raised its concerns with representatives of Burundi's
armed political groups. Amnesty International is also
concerned at the failure of the leaders of armed
political groups to acknowledge or condemn human
rights abuses by their combatants.
Case: Jean-Bosco Rutagengwa, a Twa member of the
Senate, was one of at least eight civilians, including
three women, who were killed in an ambush on a public
transport minibus at Mageyo, Rural Bujumbura, on 22
May 2002. A further eight civilians were also
reportedly wounded. PALIPEHUTU-FNL fighters are
reported to have opened fire on the minibus. According
to some reports, the motive for the attack was the
failure of the bus driver or owner to provide money to
PALIPEHUTU-FNL.
On 18 May 2002, the Bishop of Ruyigi, Monseigneur
Joseph Nduhirubusa, was abducted by members of the
CNDD-FDD. He was released several days later. He was
not ill-treated. CNDD-FDD representatives claimed he
had been taken for his own protection.
Recommendation: Amnesty International is calling on
the political and military leaders of PALIPEHUTU-FNL
and the CNDD-FDD to:
issue immediate public instructions to their
combatants to end killings of civilians, and the
summary executions of captured soldiers; and
end torture, including rape, and ill-treatment by
their forces
3. Torture and Ill-treatment and "Disappearances"
Torture and ill-treatment of detainees in custody is
routine and widespread. "Disappearances" from security
custody also continue to be reported
The failure of the courts to investigate torture
allegations and their willingness to accept
confessions obtained under torture encourages abuse.
It is also facilitated by the practice of
incommunicado detention.
Case: On 18 July 2002, Sergeant Paterne Mpfukamensabe
was tortured to death in Ngagara barracks (2e
bataillon d'intervention), Bujumbura, after being
arrested on 15 July after an argument between him and
another soldier. His family was informed of the death
and went to the barracks for confirmation. The
commander of the barracks told them that Sergeant
Mpfukamensabe had died from a severe stomach upset.
However, the wounds on his body showed clearly that a
stomach upset was not the cause of death. With
injuries visible all over his body, he appears to have
been beaten to death. At the insistence of the family,
a judicial investigation has been opened and several
soldiers arrested.
Recommendation: Law enforcement officers accused of
acts of torture, ill-treatment or "disappearance", or
of having ordered or condoned such acts, should be
suspended from their posts and the allegations against
them thoroughly, impartially and promptly
investigated. If the accusations appear well-founded,
the officers should be promptly brought to justice.
Additionally, the practice of incommunicado detention
should be ended and human rights groups, UN human
rights monitors and humanitarian organizations
provided with independent and unrestricted access to
places of detention.

4. Impunity
Decades of impunity have institutionalised recourse to
violence against the civilian population by the
security forces and armed opposition groups. The
government has failed to bring to justice members of
the security forces suspected of serious human rights
violations. There can be no durable resolution to the
conflict unless impunity is addressed. Military courts
have shown themselves unwilling and incapable of
investigating human rights violations by members of
the armed forces accused of human rights violations.
Recommendation: It is imperative that serious human
abuses be investigated and perpetrators brought to
justice and victims provided with redress. The
jurisdiction of military courts should be restricted.
Military courts should have the power to try only
military personnel accused of exclusively military
discipline offences, and should not have the power to
impose the death penalty.

5. Administration of Justice.
Amnesty International has long argued for the need to
reform and strengthen the Burundian judiciary to
ensure greater independence, impartiality and
competence. Only if this is done will the judiciary be
able to fulfill it's essential and demanding role, in
both continuing to investigate current abuses and in
contributing to the investigation and prosecution of
past abuses. Initiatives such as an International
Commission of Inquiry or the inauguration of a Truth
and Reconciliation Commission, both of which are
provided for in the Peace Agreement, should not
detract from the strengthening of this key
institution.

6. Fair trial - the right to appeal
While Burundian law allows for a full appeal of
conviction and sentence from judgments rendered by
lower courts, those who are accused of crimes which
are punishable by life imprisonment or death are tried
at first and last resort by the criminal chambers of
the Court of Appeal. Additionally, people who qualify
for a privileged status by reason of their position
(magistrates, communal administrators or high
functionaries), are tried at first and last resort by
the Supreme Court. Defendants tried by the criminal
chambers of the Court of Appeal can only apply for
review through the cassation procedure at the
cassation chamber of the Supreme Court, which allows
only for a limited review on questions of law and
substantial violations of form. There is, therefore,
no ability for those tried by the criminal chambers of
the Court of Appeal to have the factual basis on which
they were convicted and sentenced reviewed.
Case: Gaëtan Bwampamye, a former head of a medical
school in Ngozi province, northern Burundi, was
sentenced to death by Ngozi Appeal Court in August
1997 after an unfair trial. As with hundreds of other
people who have been sentenced to death since 1996, he
was denied the right to appeal. However, his lawyer
lodged a complaint with the African Commission on
Human and Peoples' Rights (African Commission) and in
December 2000, the African Commission ruled in favour
of Gaëtan Bwampamye. The African Commission upheld the
complaint, primarily on the grounds that he was denied
legal representation, and called on the Government of
Burundi to take appropriate measures to reopen the
case, and to conform to its international legal
obligations, in particular under the African Charter
on Human and Peoples' Rights. The case has not been
reopened and Gaëtan Bwampamye remains in prison.
Recommendation: The Transitional Government should
enact legislation which will ensure that all
defendants have the option of having their conviction
and sentence reviewed by an impartial higher tribunal.

7. Long-term detention without charge or trial
One of Amnesty International's longstanding concerns
with regard to the administration of justice has been
the problem of long-term detention without charge or
trial of thousands of detainees, some of whom have
been detained for over six years.
Furthermore, trials are often lengthy and may last
years as a consequence of multiple postponements. In
practice, even when a detainee might get to be heard
in court the time lapse between the initial accusation
and the court hearing may make it difficult to trace
witnesses, and there is no guarantee that the hearing
will take place. The problem of the attendance of
witnesses -- both prosecution and defence -- is
acknowledged by the government, judiciary and human
rights groups. It remains a serious obstacle to the
proper functioning of the courts. Even when a case has
been heard, there may a lapse of over 12 months before
the verdict is announced.
Case: Marie Ndurututse, who was arrested in February
1996, is still awaiting trial in Ngozi prison on
suspicion of taking part in the 1993 massacres of
mainly Tutsi civilians which followed the
assassination of Burundi's first democratically
elected president, Melchior Ndadaye, and an attempted
coup d'état.
Recommendation: The Transitional Government should
provisionally release detainees who have been held for
long periods without trial, against whom there is
insufficient evidence pending further investigations
or the withdrawal of charges.

8. The Death Penalty
The death penalty continues to be widely used. By July
2002, over 250 people were under sentence of death,
many following unfair trials. Under the Burundian
legal those sentenced to death by civilian courts do
not have the right to a full appeal. Not all those
under sentence of death have benefited from legal
counsel.
Case: In January 2002, Zamda Bagurikunda (f) and a
member of the Burundian armed forces, Dieudonné
Niyonsaba, who was badly beaten with an iron bar after
his arrest, were sentenced to death by the conseil de
guerre of the 5th Military Region after being
convicted of the theft of ammunition from the
Burundian military, which they allegedly intended to
pass to the CNDD-FDD. Neither had a lawyer. Four other
defendants received lesser sentences. Zamda
Bagurikunda has lodged an appeal with the Military
Court of Appeal.
Recommendation: The Government should impose a
moratorium on the death penalty immediately pending
action on its abolition. It should also commute death
sentences passed so far.

9. Conditions of detention
Despite significant improvements, conditions in
Burundi's prisons and detention centres are harsh,
often severely overcrowded and dangerously unsanitary
and, in some cases, amounting to cruel, inhuman and
degrading treatment.
Recommendation: Amnesty International urges the
Government to continue to improve prison conditions,
notably by easing overcrowding.

10. Children in Detention
Many of the some 160 children in detention in Burundi
were arrested in violation of arrest and detention
procedures. Some children were tortured after their
arrest. Some detained for up to three years without
trial. Few of those who have been tried have benefited
from legal counsel. Children are also vulnerable to
sexual abuse and exploitation in prison.
Case: Some children have been detained since 1999
without being tried. They include Mossi Rukundo, who
was arrested in November 1999 at the age of 14 in
Bubanza province, on suspicion of links with an armed
political group. Following his arrest by the PSP, he
was transferred the same day to Bubanza prison where
he was held for three months before being transferred
to Mpimba central prison in March 2000. His case is
yet to go to trial, although his case file was
registered with the Court of Appeal in January 2000.
Manirakiza and Pasteur Manirambona, who are now aged
18, have been detained without trial since November
1999. They are both accused of rape and murder.
Recommendation: The Government should expedite the
examination of the case files of children, especially
those detained for long periods without trial, and
provisionally release those against whom there is
little substantiating evidence, or who are detained
for minor offences. It should protect children from
torture. Children should be detained separately from
adults.

11. Child Soldiers
The full extent of the involvement of child soldiers
in Burundi's armed conflict is not known and reliable
information is difficult to obtain. Thousands of child
soldiers have been recruited by all parties to the
conflict, as well as the Gardiens de la Paix militia.
Some children act as fully fledged combatants, others
are used as look-outs and informants, or for menial
duties.
It is the responsibility of the authorities and
commanders and leaders of armed political groups, to
prevent recruitment of children as combatants.
Recruitment of children under the age of 15 is defined
as a war crime under the Rome Statutes of the
International Criminal Court.
Recommendation: Government authorities should prohibit
the compulsory or voluntary recruitment of anyone
under the age of 18 into security forces. They should
also implement demobilization programmes, and assist
NGOs working in this field.

12. Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons
Hundreds of thousands of refugees and internally
displaced persons continue to suffer human rights
abuses, not only at the hands of belligerents in the
conflict but in their places of refuge. Armed
political groups have attacked camps, often located
close to military positions, and civilians within the
camps have been deliberately and arbitrarily killed.
The general protection of refugees has also been
undermined by the use of the camps by armed opposition
groups as sources of recruitment and as resting
places. This violates the civilian and humanitarian
nature of the refugees camps and endangers the safety
of genuine refugees. A number of refugees have been
"refoulé" (turned back) from Burundi.
Case: On 23 January 2002, 28 Congolese Banyamulenge --
some of whom could clearly qualify as refugees -- were
illegally arrested during the night in Bujumbura and
taken to the Groupement d'intervention (Gatoke) where
they were beaten. Thirteen of the group, none of whom
had refugee status, and all of whom were former
members of Congolese armed forces, were deported
within hours to the DRC, where all but one reportedly
remain in military custody. The remaining15 people
were released after several hours.
Recommendation: The governments of Burundi and of
countries hosting refugees as well as NGOs should not
encourage or seek to incite involuntary repatriation.
They should not promote programmes for voluntary
repatriation until such a time when lasting conditions
exist for the safe and dignified repatriation of
refugees. Allegations of human rights abuses in camps
for the displaced should be investigated.