Agathon Rwasa

Ce site web publie les atrocités des rebelles FNL du Burundi et mène une campagne pour traduire en justice le dirigeant des FNL, Agathon Rwasa. Nous essayons aussi de mettre à nue la question d'impunité en génerale. This website aims to highlight atrocities by the Burundian FNL rebels, and campaigns to see FNL leader Agathon Rwasa brought to justice. We also aim to highlight the issue of impunity worldwide.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Amnesty International condemns Burundi press repression


Public Statement

AI Index: AFR 16/022/2006 (Public)
News Service No: 307
30 November 2006

Burundi: Freedom of expression under attack once more

Amnesty International is concerned at reports of the arbitrary arrest and detention of Mathias Manirakiza, the Director of Isanganiro, a private radio station in Burundi, on 29 November. He is currently detained in Mpimba Central Prison in Bujumbura.

Mathias Manirakiza has been charged with disturbing public order after broadcasting on 29 August 2006 information about alleged plans to attack the Office of the President, Pierre Nkurunziza, and the home of Hussein Radjabu, the President of the National Council for the Defence of Democracy - Forces for the Defence of Democracy (Conseil national pour la Défense de la Démocratie - Forces pour la Défense de la Démocratie, CNDD-FDD ).

Amnesty International believes that the charges against Mathia Manirakiza are an unwarranted restriction on his freedom of expression. As there has been no disturbance of public order since Radio Isanganiro made its broadcast in August 2006, the charges against Mathias Manirakiza do not seem necessary for the protection of public order.

Amnesty International is also concerned that the arrest and detention of Mathias Manirakiza may be the latest move in an ongoing strategy by the government to repress freedom of expression in Burundi.

The government has repeatedly harassed and intimidated journalists throughout 2006, with an escalation in attacks on freedom of expression in the past week. Serge Nibizi and Domitile Kiramvu, journalists for Radio Publique Africaine, were arrested on 22 November 2006 and charged with threatening state security and violating judicial secrecy. The two journalists commented on a story published in a pro-government newspaper about a plot to overthrow the government in August 2006. Two other journalists, Christelle Ruvari and Bob Rugurika also received a summons for questioning about the same story on 27 November 2006. They were not, however, detained.

Article 19(2) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Burundi acceded in 1990, provides:

"Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice."

While Article 19(3) of the ICCPR allows for certain restrictions on the freedom of expression including for the protection of public order, any such restrictions must be "provided by law" and "necessary for the protection of public order".

According to the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, arrests and detention are considered arbitrary when the facts giving rise to them concern the exercise of freedom of opinion and expression.

Amnesty International urges the Burundian authorities to stop harassing journalists in Burundi. International law obliges Burundi to respect and ensure freedom of expression, allowing reporters to work independently.

The organization also urges the international community and the global journalist community to publicly condemn the recent arbitrary arrests and detention of journalists in Burundi.

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Burundi government intensifies attack on press freedom - third radio journalist illegally detained

From The Committe to Protect Journalists

The Committee to Protect Journalists demands that three radio journalists jailed in Burundi in the past week, including Matthias Manirakiza detained today, be released immediately.

“This looks more and more like a campaign to silence respected independent broadcasters who have spearheaded investigative reporting on human rights abuses and corruption,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. “We call on the government of Burundi to release Matthias Manirakiza and two journalists from Radio Publique Africaine immediately and unconditionally.”

Manirakiza, director of Radio Isanganiro, was held over a story alleging a plan to stage an attack on the presidential palace. On November 22, editor Serge Nibizi and journalist Domitile Kiramvu of Radio Publique Africaine (RPA) were imprisoned on charges of threatening state security. Two days later, five independent radio stations organized a one-day media blackout to protest their imprisonment.

Manirakiza was sent to the central prison in the capital Bujumbura after police questioned him about a story broadcast in August. It was not clear whether he had been charged. The report cited police sources as saying authorities planned to stage fake attacks on the homes of top officials to bolster their claims of a coup plot. Several top opposition leaders, including the former president, are currently on trial for alleged participation in the plot. Agence France-Presse quoted Manirakiza’s lawyer Raphael Gahungu as saying that his client was jailed for allegedly “authorizing the broadcast of information threatening to state and public security.”

“Manirakiza’s fate had been determined beforehand," Gahungu also told AFP. "It was evident from the number of police officers sent here.” Radio Isanganiro is backed by the U.S.-based nongovernmental organization Search for Common Ground. Radio Publique Africaine’s director Alexis Sinduhije won an International Press Freedom Award from CPJ in 2004. He has been in hiding since September, following threats to his safety.

On November 28, journalists Bob Rugurika and Christelle Ruvari of RPA were also summoned and questioned over a story related to the alleged coup plot. They were provisionally released the same day, but could be summoned back and arrested at any time, according to Jean-Marie Hicuburundi, assistant director of RPA.

Frank Kaze, the head of Burundi’s journalists’ union, was today quoted by AFP as saying, “The government is brazenly violating the law. This government is no longer hiding that it wants to silence private radios that denounce the numerous abuses committed in this country.”

For more information on the RPA arrests, see CPJ’s November 22 alert:

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Tuesday, November 28, 2006

UN condemns "endemic" sexual violence, torture and killings in Burundi, calls for justice

From Reuters

BUJUMBURA, 27 November (IRIN) - Human-rights violations have continued in Burundi, despite a new democratically elected government, according to a senior United Nations official in the country.

Sexual violence is commonplace, while arbitrary killings, arrests and torture are also happening, according to Ismael Diallo, the director of the human-rights division of the UN Operation in Burundi (ONUB).

"The human-rights situation has really not improved since the previous government; it has more or less remained the same, except for abuses by the intelligence services, which have become noticeably worse," Diallo said.

Burundi is emerging from 13 years of civil strife during which human rights were regularly abused. The current government swept to power in a landslide election in August 2005 pledging to restore order.

Diallo noted that abuses by Burundi's national intelligence service, the Service National de Renseignement (SNR), had grown significantly worse over the past few months, with its agents carrying out arbitrary arrests and torturing detainees suspected of being allied to Burundi's last active rebel group, the Forces nationales de libération.

Bodies found

In an October report, an international watchdog, Human Rights Watch (HRW), accused the SNR of torture and possible involvement in extrajudicial killings that it said went unpunished.

"Intelligence agents are believed to have been involved in the killing or presumed killing of at least 38 people over the past year," the report said. "Thirty-one people are currently missing and presumed dead in Muyinga [province in the north] with several bodies and body parts having been found in a local river."

HRW said that in July, people in Muyinga told human-rights organisations that family members had been arrested and could not be found. At least seven bodies were recovered from the region's River Ruvubu.

However, Burundi's government spokesman and minister of information, Ramadhan Karenga, told IRIN the HRW report lacked credibility since the group had not consulted the government during its investigations.

"We know about the bodies in Muyinga, and even the ones recently pulled out of the river in Bubanza Province, but how can we know that it was the intelligence service that did it? We are carrying out our investigations, and when the perpetrators have been arrested, we will be able to say with certainty who committed the murders. Until then, people can only speculate," Karenga said.

A local rights group, Ligue Burundaise des Droits de l'Homme, known as ITEKA, also said the rights situation had not improved, and that they had been persecuted for criticising abuses by government agents.

"We had hoped that after the elections the human-rights abuses would reduce, but more than a year later things are no better; we are still seeing extrajudicial killings, rape is widespread and we are threatened for our reports," said Jean-Pierre Kisamare, ITEKA's information secretary. "The governor of one province has actually said ITEKA is an enemy of peace and has arrested our staff members."

HRW said seven former high-level government officials and opposition leaders arrested in August for an alleged coup attempt - including former Vice-President Alphonse Marie Kadege - had been tortured.

Kadege's wife, Ruth Magerano, told the BBC in August that when she visited her husband in detention, she saw him "lying flat on the floor with a policeman standing on him".

The country's minister of national solidarity, human rights and gender, Françoise Ngendahayo, also visited the detainees in August and said she had seen signs of torture.

Diallo said despite numerous requests, his office had not been allowed to visit SNR detention centres to check that prisoners' human rights were being protected.

The press, too, had complained of harassment by the government and on 22 November, two journalists from independent radio station Radio Publique Africaine were arrested over a story about the alleged coup plot, a move condemned by the New-York based Committee to Protect Journalists as "a government attempt to silence critical reporting".

Karenga defended his government's action, saying standards of journalism in Burundi were very poor. "Many of the people who call themselves journalists have no training in the field and therefore have no concept of journalistic ethics," he said. "To some they may be journalists, but to us they are former police officers or teachers who may have a personal grudge against people in the government."

Sexual violence endemic

Diallo noted that while the arbitrary arrests and killings were worrying, sexual violence was even more rampant in Burundi.

"Rape and sexual violence is a daily occurrence and is hardly considered a crime any more," he said. "About two-thirds of rapes are committed by civilians, and one-third by uniformed personnel, meaning the police or the army."

Diallo said ignorance and a sense of power conferred by the possession of a uniform and a gun, combined with a lack of discipline in the armed forces and the security forces' failure to punish offenders, allowed soldiers and police officers to continue to violate the rights of women and girls.

In a recent report on the human-rights situation in Burundi, ONUB's human-rights division reported 83 cases of sexual violence across the country during September alone. Diallo noted that most cases went unreported because of stigma and likely inaction by the authorities.

"In many instances, the case is settled locally through elders called 'Bashingantahe', and often the culprit could get away with his crime by simply giving the family a bicycle or money," he said.

When Christine Muhorakeye (not her real name) was raped early in 2006 by two men in Kiremba commune in the northern province of Ngozi, she reported the matter to the police, who released the men after they made reparations of 200,000 Burundi francs (US$200). The result was considered positive by the villagers as the money allowed Muhorakeye and her fiancé to pay for their wedding; most rape survivors got far less, they said.

Diallo said an in-depth education campaign on sexual violence was required and the penal code needed to be revised, as under current rape laws there was "room to play around".

Urgent action necessary

Torture, Diallo added, also needed to be more clearly defined as a crime under the penal code.

"The laws need to be enforced and strengthened," ITEKA's Kisamare said. "The government must also reduce its influence over the judiciary, which does not currently allow justice to prevail; there must be respect for the separation of powers."

Diallo said the European Union had threatened to withhold funding if there were no improvements in Burundi, including on rights violations. About two-thirds of Burundi's budget is donor funded, and cuts would severely affect the government's programmes.

"Sensitisation, education and training are all essential to educating people about the law," he added. "Civilians, the SNR, the military and ministries such as security, gender and justice all need further training on human rights."

He said he had met senior government officials who had assured him they were working towards penalising human-rights violators.

ITEKA's Kisamare said that in October, Burundi's First Vice-President Martin Nduwimana had promised regular dialogue with civil society during which human-rights issues would be discussed.

Karenga acknowledged that his government still had some issues to iron out, but said they were in the early stages of establishing their authority over the various government departments and the country in general.

"We know that there are some bad elements, but fixing the problem is not easy; the police force, for instance, is made up of the established officers as well as former rebels, many of whom have no training," he said. "We intend to train them professionally … we are trying to correct the wrongs that have been carried over from previous regimes.

"Consider that we are coming out of so many years of civil war; you cannot expect us to heal the wounds of the country in 24 hours," he added.

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International Federation of Journalists condemns arrest of Nibizi and Kuramvu


The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today condemned the jailing and harassment of journalists by the Burundi government in an apparent reaction to broadcasts that suggested a failed coup attempt was actually staged by the government.

Two journalists were imprisoned on Wednesday, apparently in relation to a discussion about a coup attempt that was broadcast live in August on the privately-owned radio station Radio Publique Africaine (RPA). Two other journalists were summoned to appear in court on Friday over their involvement in the case.

On Wednesday, RPA editor-in-chief Serge Nibizi and journalists Domitille Kiramvu and André-Palice Ndimurukundo were summoned to the office of the public prosecutor of Bujumbura. Ndimurukundo was released but Nibizi and Kiramvu were arrested for allegedly threatening state security and broadcasting information on a case under judicial investigation. Journalists Bob Rugurika and Christella Ruvaru of RPA received summonses to appear before the prosecutor on Friday.

"We firmly condemn this harassment of the journalists of RPA and call for their immediate and unconditional release," said Gabriel Baglo, Director of the IFJ Africa Office. "It's a clear attempt [of] the government to muzzle the independent press on issues related to the alleged foiled coup and that would mean that [President] Nkurunziza's regime has something to hide in this case."

According to some of their colleagues, in August 2006, RPA journalists read and commented on articles published in the pro-governmental Intumwa newspaper, which reported an alleged conversation between an army officer and an opposition leader regarding a coup attempt. Between 31 July and 20 August, several opposition leaders were accused of plotting a coup and were arrested.

Since then, the director of RPA, Alexis Sinduhije, has been in hiding for fear of his security after broadcasting the story.

RPA's coverage attempted to prove that it was a fake coup organised by the government. The station broadcast a live interview with Alain Mugabarabona, a former rebel leader and the main witness of the prosecutor, who said he was tortured and forced to lie about the people arrested.

The Burundi Journalists' Association, the Burundi Broadcasters' Association, the Burundi Press House, the Association of Women Journalists and l'Observatoire de la presse burundaise [Burundi's media watchdog] have all said they are shocked by the judicial proceedings against the journalists, which appeared to be planned in advance. The organisations said they will fight for the unconditional release of the imprisoned journalists and are open to talks with the government on the matter.

The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 110 countries.

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Monday, November 27, 2006

UN Torture Committee raises concerns over widespread abuses, condemns immunity for rape and torture, urges creation of special war crimes court

In its conclusions on the initial report of Burundi, the Committee took note of the proposed amendments to Burundi's Penal Code, and of Burundi's intention to include articles prohibiting acts of torture, and other acts of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, including with regard to violence against women and children. Further, it acknowledged the delegation's statement that the Code of Criminal Procedure would be likewise revised over the course of 2007. The Committee welcomed the creation of the Ministry for National Solidarity, Human Rights and Gender, the Government Commission on Human Rights and the Centre for the Promotion of Human Rights and the Prevention of Genocide.

The Committee remained concerned, however, by the lack of specific provisions in Burundi's Penal Code to define and criminalize torture, and the lack of clarity surrounding the status of the Convention in domestic law. It noted with concern that the rules concerning detention did not explicitly require that detainees be notified of their rights, and was alarmed by information received that torture was a widespread practice in Burundi and that, indeed, there had been hundreds of cases of torture committed between July 2005 and July 2006 – a fact which the State party did not contest. +In addition, it was extremely concerned by reports concerning a high number of forced disappearances, arbitrary arrests and secret detentions committed by the National Information Service. The Committee was worried by the double mandate of the Information Service, which was charged both with ensuring State security and judicial police functions, a combination that entailed a high risk that such an entity would be used as an instrument of political repression. It was further alarmed by reports of large scale sexual violence against women and children by State agents and armed groups, as well as recourse to systematized rape as a weapon of war, which was a crime against humanity. The Committee was extremely concerned that the perpetrators of such acts enjoyed apparent impunity.

Concerned by the dependency of the judiciary on the executive branch, the Committee urged Burundi to adopt measures to guarantee the independence of the judiciary. It further recommended that Burundi put in place and promote an effective mechanism mandated to receive complaints of sexual violence, including those occurring within the penitentiary system, and to investigate them. In particular, it urged the State party to look into setting up a national monitoring system for places of detention and to institute a follow-up procedure. As a matter of urgency, Burundi needed to take measures to combat impunity, in particular through the establishment of transitional justice mechanisms "a commission for truth and reconciliation and a special tribunal" as recommended by the Security Council in its resolution 1606 (2005).

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Saturday, November 25, 2006

UN urges South Africa to prosecute Apartheid torturers


Geneva - South Africa should put those suspected of torturing prisoners under apartheid on trial and pay compensation to victims, said a United Nations human rights body on Friday.

While welcoming the work of SA's Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), which probed apartheid era crimes, the UN committee against torture said "de facto impunity" persisted for those responsible for acts of torture.

"(South Africa) should consider bringing to justice persons responsible for the institutionalisation of torture as an instrument of oppression to perpetuate apartheid," the committee said in its first report on SA.

Its conclusions were issued at the end of a three-week meeting, at which its 10 independent experts examined the records of seven signatory countries to the 1984 anti-torture treaty - Burundi, Guyana, Hungary, Mexico, Russia, South Africa and Tajikistan.

Plans to charge leading perpetrators of apartheid

The TRC was set up by former president Nelson Mandela to probe crimes committed on both sides of the apartheid struggle. It completed its work in 2003.

The TRC granted amnesty to about 1 000 applicants but many perpetrators snubbed attempts at the truth. Although it asked police to investigate several hundred suspects, only a handful have since been tried.

SA's chief prosecutor said recently that he planned to charge some of the leading perpetrators of apartheid crimes, although critics have said it may be too little too late.

The UN body, which monitors compliance with a global treaty banning torture and other cruel or inhuman treatment, also expressed concern at the high number of deaths in detention and at overcrowding in jails in today's SA.

It said it was worried by "widespread" acts of violence against women and children, especially rapes and domestic violence, and the lack of any effective state policy to combat the problem.

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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

CNDD-FDD government murders 16, jails journalists who exposed ruling party's lies

The day after Amnesty International revealed more details about the 16 alleged "FNL suspects" murdered by Burundian security forces in August, the Burundian government has jailed two journalists from the country's leading independent radio station, Radio Publique Africaine, who helped expose fraudulent claims by the ruling CNDD-FDD party of an alleged coup plot.

In August, senior members of every major opposition party in Burundi - together with leaders of several more minor parties - were arrested and charged with conspiring to overthrow the government. The authorities have failed to present any evidence to support these charges, which are widely believed to be nothing more than a pretext for suppressing the political opposition.

At the same time as journalists and democratically elected politicans have been imprisoned without trial, and "FNL suspects" extrajudicially murdered, the Burundian government has offered immunity from prosecution to the leadership of Palipehutu-FNL, the group which carried out the Titanic Express and Gatumba massacres.

Click here to email CNDD-FDD spokesman Willy Nyamitwe, urging his government to free Serge Nibizi and Domitile Kiramvu, and end the suppression of the independent media in Burundi.

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Free Serge Nibizi and Domitile Kiramvu!

From Reporters Sans Frontieres

Two radio journalists jailed in Bujumbura on state security charge

Reporters Without Borders condemns today’s arrest of Serge Nibizi, editor-in-chief of privately-owned Radio Publique Africaine (RPA), and Domitile Kiramvu, one of his journalists, on charges of “disseminating news threatening state security” and “violating the confidentiality of a judicial investigation.”

“President Pierre Nkurunziza claims to be committed to democratic values, so he should realise that throwing two journalists in prison for purely political reasons, before they have been tried, is contrary to all democratic standards,” the press freedom organisation said.

“Burundi’s donors must put pressure on the president’s office to have Nibizi and Kiramvu released and to have Burundi’s laws amended, as it is unacceptable for journalists to be treated like criminals over the least complaint,” Reporters Without Borders added.

At the end of the afternoon of 21 November, Nibizi, Kiramvu and a third RPA journalist, André-Palice Ndimurukundo, received a summons to report to the Bujumbura prosecutor at 2 p.m. that day. As it was already too late, they went the next morning (yesterday morning). Nibizi and Kiramvu were charged, and were taken to Mpimba prison, while Ndimurukundo was released.

The arrests appear to have been prompted by Kiramvu’s comments on the air last August criticising articles in the fortnightly Intumwa (The Messenger), the mouthpiece of the ruling CNDD-FDD party, that detailed evidence against alleged coup plotters although the case has not yet been sent for trial.

When President Nkurunziza gave a press conference during a visit to Paris on 9 November, Reporters Without Borders asked him about the climate of hostility between the ruling party and Burundi’s privately-owned media. In reply, he insisted on his commitment to press freedom and added, “if ever there was a country in which relations between government and press are peaceful, it is Burundi.”

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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Burundi government makes renewed promise on war crimes tribunal...

With regard to the Gatumba massacre, the delegation said the State had issued a report which concluded that members of the Palipehutu FNL had been found guilty of these crimes. Now that there had been a ceasefire signed with this group, these cases were pending and would be looked at when a tribunal for war crimes was established.

...but serious doubts remain about the seriousness of this commitment:

More than a year after the CNDD-FDD party came to power in Bujumbura, negotiations between the Burundian government and the UN on the creation of semi-international legal institutions have come to a standstill. The criminal proceedings mechanism envisaged by the United Nations has been rejected by the new government, which is responsible for an increasing number of human rights violations. The government feels that the chief objective of the second mechanism, a truth and reconciliation commission, should henceforth be to pardon, which the UN views as amnesty. Thus the hope for justice for mass crimes committed in Burundi over the past forty years seems to be dwindling.

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Sunday, November 12, 2006

FNL demand "total immunity" from prosecution

From BBC Afrique: Burundi : amnistie "provisoire" pour les rebelles des FNL

L'Assemblée nationale s'est prononcée pour un projet de loi accordant une immunité "provisoire" aux rebelles des Forces nationales de libération (FNL).
Le vote de ce texte s'inscrit dans le cadre de l'accord de cessez-le-feu conclu le 7 septembre entre le gouvernement et les FNL, dernier mouvement rebelle encore en activité dans le pays.

"L'immunité provisoire accordée aux rebelles des FNL couvre les infractions à mobile politique commises entre le 1er juillet 1962 (indépendance du Burundi) et le 7 septembre dernier", a précisé la ministre burundaise de la Justice, Mme Clotilde Niragira.

Elle a cependant relevé que cette loi ne concerne pas les crimes de génocide, les crimes contre l'humanité et les crimes de guerre.

Les rebelles conditionnaient leur participation à la commission de vérification de l'application du cessez-le-feu à une "immunité totale" en leur faveur.

Pasteur Habimana, le porte-parole de la rébellion, s'est voulu prudent.

"On attend que la médiation apporte au président des FNL le texte dont il est question", a déclaré Pasteur Habimana à la BBC depuis Dar-Es-Salaam.

Il a, par ailleurs, accusé le gouvernement de ne pas respecter ses propres engagements.

Le Burundi tente péniblement de tourner la page d'une douzaine d'années de guerre civile.

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Thursday, November 02, 2006

UN "peacekeeping troops" supply weapons to Hutu extremist killers in Burundi

In an exposé that has left South Africa's defence minister, Mosiuoa Lekota, raging, South Africa's "Star" newspaper has revealed that millions of rands worth of guns, bombs, military vehicles and ammunition have been "lost" by South African peacekeeping troops in Burundi. A stash of 50 of the missing mortar bombs were found in the hands of Agathon Rwasa's Palipehutu-FNL, which has killed hundreds of civilians in recent years. Amid longstanding rumours of corrupt links between South African UN employees and the Hutu-extremist militia group, these revelations will be of little surprise to many in Burundi.

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