Burundi: Amnesty International accuses gov’t of gross human rights violations, death toll rises

Burundian Police battling protestors

Burundian Police battling protestors

After a lengthy investigation into the Burundi conflict, the human rights watchdog Amnesty International is accusing the government to have used excessive and disproportionate force to repress anti-third term.

In its damning report Braving Bullets, Excessive force in policing demonstrations in Burundi, Amnesty International faults police for using lethal force, tear gas and live ammunition, against unarmed protesters.

According to Amnesty International, the “nature of violations by police against protesters – as well as government statements before the demonstrations pre-emptively characterizing them as an insurrection – shows that their aim was not to disperse demonstrations, but rather to punish protesters for their political views”.

The international rights agency regrets the fact that no victims or family members have been able to file a complaint against the police, citing fear of reprisals as they have been intimidated by their tormentors; police or intelligence agents.

The men in blue have been accused of torturing and harassing protestors

The men in blue have been accused of torturing and harassing protestors

The government is blamed for treating largely peaceful demonstrators and entire residential neighborhoods as part of an insurrection.

For Amnesty International, says protestors who resorted to violence did so in response to the brutal tactics employed by the police.

In its investigations, Amnesty International alleges it found individuals in positions of power are bypassing the police chain of command to give orders that violate regional and international human rights standards, including the right to life.

“As long as parallel command structures exist in Burundi, all attempts to reform and train security forces risk being undermined by individuals using the police to commit human rights violations for their own political or personal agendas”, the report reads in part.

Police look as the woman  protestors struggles helplessly

Police look on as the woman protestors struggles helplessly

Amnesty International urges the Burundian government to immediately investigate reports of excessive use of force, lethal force, and extra-judicial execution by the police, and suspend suspected perpetrators pending criminal investigations and prosecutions.

“This could also reduce the likelihood of people finding more violent ways to express political grievances, and help to counter the risk of return to armed conflict”, the report adds.

In April popular protests broke out in the Burundi capital Bujumbura and some parts in the countryside following the governing party’s decision to nominate President Pierre Nkurunziza for the controversial third term.

More than 70 people are reported to have been killed during the protests, while more over 140,000 have fled to neighboring countries.

During the protests police rounded up demonstrators onto their trucks

During the protests police rounded up demonstrators onto their trucks

As many observers see Burundi on the brink of another civil war, Amnesty International urges the international community, especially the regional actors to intensify their efforts to resolve the current crisis in Burundi.

The Burundian government has dismissed the report saying it is based on fabricated and unverified reports by the opposition.

As if acting on the human rights body’s call, African Union (AU) has dispatched its advance team of human rights observers and military experts.

The government had been denying these AU observers access to the country but it appears Bujumbura has relented; recently US condemned the government’s stance on the issue.

The AU personnel will be assessing the human rights situation and also facilitating the peaceful resolution of the crisis.

According to AU communiqué, the human rights observers will monitor the human rights situation on the ground and report on possible violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, while the military experts will verify, in collaboration with the Government and other stakeholders, the disarmament of militias and other armed groups.

Meanwhile, targeted killings continue to be reported here and there in the capital Bujumbura, targeting especially opposition members.

Wednesday night, a supporter of the opposition leader Agathon Rwasa was gunned down at his home in Kinama neighborhood by unknown armed men suspected to be members of the Imbonerakure youth wing of the ruling CNDD-FDD, and another Rwasa supporter was shot dead Thursday in Quartier Asiatique in Bujumbura.

Burundians and the international community are anxiously waiting for results of Tuesday’s contentious presidential poll of which the president is expected to win.

The electoral commission has announced it will release the highly anticipated results Friday.