Free Aloys Kabura!
27 June 2006
UA 180/06 Arbitrary Detention / Medical Concern/Possible Prisoner of
BURUNDI Aloys Kabura (m), journalist with the Burundian Press
Association, l'Association Burundaise de Presse, ABP
Aloys Kabura, a journalist with the Burundian Press Association (l’Association
Burundaise de Presse - ABP) has been illegally detained in Ngozi prison in
northern Burundi since 1 June. Since his detention, he has developed a severe
medical condition with his legs and is unable to walk. He requires immediate
Aloys Kabura is reportedly detained with several other inmates in a cell nine
meters squared. Prisons in Burundi are often overcrowded and unsanitary, and
detention can amount to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. On 21 June,
Aloys Kabura officially contacted the director of Ngozi Prison requesting to
consult a doctor or nurse at Ngozi hospital about the medical condition with
his legs because no doctors or nurses visit the prison. He has no received any
Aloys Kabura was arrested after he reportedly made comments in a bar
criticizing the conduct of the national police forces when they detained, and
in some cases severely assaulted, around 30 journalists at a press conference
held at the house of National Council for the Defense of Democracy – Forces for
the Defense of Democracy (Conseil national pour la defense de la
democratie-Forces pour la defense de la democratie, CNDD-FDD) parliamentarian,
Matthias Basabose, in Kinindo, Bujumbura on 17 April, 2006.
Aloys Kabura was initially detained on the basis of article 273 of the Burundi
penal code, which imposes the maximum punishment of 2 months in prison and/or a
fine of 5,000 Burundian francs (US$5) for: "…[those who] in public, commit any
act or make any gesture or remark that demonstrates or incites contempt in
relation to the established powers, to agents of public authorities…"
The penal procedure code only allows for the pre-trial detention of those
suspected of crimes which carry a punishment of over one year imprisonment.
The public prosecutor in the province of Kayanza was questioned on 4 June about
this apparent violation of the penal code procedure. The following day he
issued a new arrest warrant, which was back-dated to the date of the original
warrant, listing additional offences to strengthen the grounds on which Aloys
Kabura could be held in pre-trial detention.
On 23 June 2006, the Ngozi appeal court confirmed the legality of the pre-trial
detention of Aloys Kabura. In their ruling, which is officially dated 29 June
although it was issued on 23 June, the judges of the appeal court stated that
they did not find any irregularities in the procedure. Even though Aloys Kabura
went to the appeal court hearing on makeshift crutches, the judges stated: "We
admit that we are judges not knowledgeable about medicine. It is therefore
necessary to obtain a report by a qualified doctor for clarification to enable
us to make a correct and fair ruling." ("Nous sommes un juge et nous l'avouons,
ignorant en matière de médecine d'où la nécessité d'une pièce émanant d'un
médecin compétent pour nous éclairer afin de pouvoir prendre une décision juste
If convicted, Amnesty International will consider Aloys Kabura a prisoner of
conscience, as he has been detained solely for peacefully exercising his right
to freedom of speech.
Over the last few months, Amnesty International has received reports of members
of civil society being subjected to intimidation by the authorities. Arbitrary
arrests and detentions seem to be increasingly used by the authorities to
target people critical of either government policy or the conduct of security
Terence Nahimana, the director of the NGO Cercle d’initiative pour une vision
commune (CIVIC), has been detained in Mpimba Prison since 10 May 2006 after
claiming that the government were intentionally stalling peace negotiations
with the National Liberation Forces (Forces Nationales de Libération, FNL) (see
UA 147/06, AFR 16/007/2006).
Three members of the organisation AC Genocide were arrested on 21 May as they
attempted to hold a monthly meeting at a local centre in the town of Gitega.
One was released on medical grounds. The other two were charged with
"threatening state security", and each paid 20,000 Burundian francs (US$20) as
bail. Their lawyer stated that the release will be permanent as no formal
charges were brought against them (see UA, 149/06, AFR 16/008/2006).
Burundi, human rights, Current Affairs, Politics, Africa