Burundi denies carrying out extra Judicial killings

Burundi's Attorney General, Valentin Bagorikunda

Burundi’s Attorney General, Valentin Bagorikunda

The Burundian government has denied allegations of extra judicial killings by its security agencies following an armed attack on key security installations late last year and the existence of mass graves across the country.

While Presenting a report on investigations that were carried out in the wake of a rebel attack on four military bases in the capital Bujumbura, Burundi’s Attorney General Valentin Bagorikunda said besides the military and police officers who lost their lives in the fighting , several attackers were killed and buried in well known cemeteries.

Burundian defense and security forces have come under strong criticism for carrying out extra judiciary killings in retaliation to the attack, with several reports suggesting that the dead attackers were buried in mass graves.

The country’s Attorney General Valentin Bagorikunda told reporters in the capital on Thursday that an adhoc committee set up to investigate the allegations , found none of the said mass graves nor did they record cases of extra judicial killings by security forces as alleged by some rights groups.

“After they were defeated, the fighters of the armed group that launched the attack retreated to several neighborhoods of the capital Bujumbura, prompting defense and security forces to track them down in their hideouts,” he explained, adding that neither the name of the group, nor the masterminds of the attacks are known.

“The fighting caused loss of human lives estimated at 79 combatants, along with four soldiers and four policemen. Fighters killed in different neighborhoods of Bujumbura were armed and in military or police uniforms,” he added.

The Attorney General stressed that families of some of the dead attackers claimed their bodies, while those that remained unclaimed were buried in well known graveyards. He said that 87 of the attackers were captured alive and are currently being held at Muramvya central prison awaiting trial.

“To the contrary, a mass grave in which insurgents buried people they killed during the uprising was discovered in Mutakura on February 29, 2016. It’s unfortunate that the existence of this mass grave was not mentioned in Ligue Iteka and Amnesty International reports,” he regretted.

Meanwhile, cases of people being killed in sporadic attacks in the capital Bujumbura have continued, with rights groups pointing a finger at the security agencies especially police for using excessive force, and human rights violations.

But during a security meeting between the mayor of Bujumbura, police officials and local leaders from five opposition neighborhoods in the city of Bujumbura, the City Police Commissioner, Domitien Niyonkuru denied Police’s involvement in the killings and dismissed the claims as baseless aimed at tarnishing the image of the force as well as creating a rift between security forces and the population.

Authorities in Bujumbura however admitted that there have been isolated cases of security forces being involved in rights violations, saying that those involved have been taken into custody. However the security agencies are accusing some local leaders of collaborating with criminals to destabilize the country.

Recently, a UN team of experts that visited Burundi recommended that a thorough investigation be carried to establish the truth regarding the allegations of human rights violations by  defense and security forces, warning of dangers if these violations are not addressed.