News

Report: In Burundi, Scores of Extrajudicial Killings

People sit near bodies of relatives killed after gunmen burst into a bar in Gatumba, Bujumbura Rural Province, Burundi, Sept. 19, 2011 (file photo).
People sit near bodies of relatives killed after gunmen burst into a bar in Gatumba, Bujumbura Rural Province, Burundi, Sept. 19, 2011 (file photo).
Roopa Gogineni

Human Rights Watch (HRW) released an 81-page report on Wednesday in the capital, Bujumbura, documenting scores of killings by state agents and rebel groups.

Findings of the report, “'You Will Not Have Peace While You Are Living’: The Escalation of Political Violence in Burundi,” indicate that few cases have gone to trial, reflecting widespread impunity and an ineffective judiciary.

According to HRW's report, the spate of extrajudicial killings began after the 2010 elections, won by President Pierre Nkurunziza and his CNDD FDD party. Burundian human rights groups estimate there have been as many as 300 such killings.

Nkurunziza’s party faced no challengers at the ballot box after the main opposition parties formed a coalition and boycotted the vote, charging intimidation and electoral fraud. Coalition members, including the rebel-group-turned-political-party Forces Nationales de Liberation (FNL), fled to the bush or nearby Congo, leaving the country’s political opposition largely fragmented.

The report identifies a subsequent pattern of retaliatory attacks, where former opposition supporters often fall victim to state security forces, intelligence services, and the CNDD-FDD’s youth group.

Although the majority of political killings documented by HRW targeted the opposition, members of the ruling party have also been assassinated in "tit-for-tat” attacks. Interviews with family members of victims killed because of their association with CNDD-FDD suggest FNL are behind the murders.

But according to one Bujumbura-based human rights activist, even the politically unaffiliated are at risk.

“In Bujumbura-rural, where there is FNL, what they do is kill those who are not with them," says Lionel, who declined to provide a last name. "They say, 'You are with us, you come with us, or you don’t come with us, and we kill you.'”

Massacre in Gatumba, Bujumbura Rural Province

The report also provides a detailed account of a massacre in the town of Gatumba, where 37 died last September. The government blames a furtive, anonymous opposition, while others claim the government orchestrated the massacre to frame its enemies. The government established a commission of inquiry given 30 days to investigate the attacks. The commission’s report, completed in October, has yet to be released.

HRW’s own investigations into the massacre found that only one witness from Gatumba had been contacted by the government’s inquiry commission.

Last November, 21 people accused of being involved in the attack were brought to trial, which, despite the large number of defendants, concluded so quickly it drew critical statements from both the Bujumbura Bar Association and the European Union, which both cited procedural irregularities and a neglect to call key witnesses.

Following the Gatumba massacre, the Burundian minister of communication ordered a 30-day media blackout.

Pierre Claver Mbonimba, a prominent human rights activist who has been documenting the political killings, counted 123 executions between May and July of 2011.

“I receive calls from the Ministry of the Interior - they threaten to shut our organization down," he says. "They send letters of warning every time I denounce the political violence. I’ve already received four. Two in 2011 and two in 2012.”

In January, Mbonimba’s home was broken into. He suspects the government sent the 12 armed men.

Burundi is still healing from the wounds of a 12-year civil war that formally ended in 2005. Despite the absence of an organized political opposition, the CNDD-FDD party faces growing dissent, and rumors suggest a rehabilitated FNL and two rebellions based in Tanzania and Congo have been declared.

In March, the International Crisis Group published a report describing a deepening crisis of corruption in the country.

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs