Rights watchdog accuses Burundi gov’t of blatant human rights violations

CAUGHT IN THE ACT: a Burundi police official hitting the protestor

CAUGHT IN THE ACT: a Burundi police official hitting the protestor

The New York-based Human Rights Watch has strongly accused Burundi ruling party youth wing, police and intelligence services of having arbitrarily arrested and tortured political opponents and protestors. 

In a scathing report issued Thursday, the international rights organization highlights a spate of arbitrary arrests and torture of citizens by Burundi security forces and the youth militia accusing them of planning to leave the country and join an armed rebellion. 

“The Imbonerakure have no legal right to arrest anyone, yet they have been stopping people arbitrarily, beating them, and handing them over to the intelligence services, who have tortured some of them,” said Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. 

From its investigations run in four provinces, including Bujumbura, the epicenter of the protests against President Pierre Nkurunziza’s third term, HRW found that Imbonerakure arrested victims and beat them, sometimes in the presence of intelligence officials. 

“They described being hit with sticks and clubs, forced to roll in muddy pits, and punched in the face. Imbonerakure often handed those they arrested directly to intelligence officials, who transferred them to offices of the national intelligence service,” reads the report in part. 

HRW urges the Burundian government and the ruling party to reign in the youth outlaws. 

“The Burundian government should publicly order all Imbonerakure to stop arresting people and ensure that Imbonerakure and intelligence officials responsible for ill-treatment and torture are brought to justice,” Bekele said. 

The Human Rights Watch also alleges the Intelligence Service custody is a haven for serious ill-treatment of people held there, just to confess under duress crimes they never committed. 

“More than a dozen victims in various parts of the country said that intelligence agents beat or tortured them. Several were subjected to humiliating and strenuous exercises, beatings with electric cables, and other ill-treatment to force them to confess to false accusations. Some said the provincial heads of some SNR offices pressured them to confess to joining an armed rebellion”, the report adds 

This human rights organization describes what it calls “a broken justice System” whereby judicial procedures were entirely disregarded, and detainees held unlawfully by the police for prolonged periods. 

Other members of the international community have faulted the government in Bujumbura for violating human rights and harassing and torturing, and killing political opponents but the maintains such accusations are unfounded and fabricated based on unverified reports by “ill-willed people”