News / Africa

Rights Group: Burundi Security Services Tortured Opposition Politicians

Amnesty International says Burundian authorities must investigate allegations that state security officials tortured 12 opposition politicians during the country's recent elections. 

Amnesty International's report "A Step Backward" describes how opposition Burundi politicians were allegedly beaten with batons, slapped, kicked, and hit after they were arrested by the country's security services.

"We have seen photographs of the physical injuries that some of these individuals sustained and we have met with some of these individuals and seen signs of psychological torture as well as very convincing reports and consistent accounts of physical torture," said Amnesty representative Sarah Jackson speaking to VOA from Uganda.

Some of those interviewed by Amnesty International said they had been threatened with death.  One detainee said part of his ear had been cut off.

The opposition politicians were arrested in connection with a series of grenade attacks that hit Burundi before the June election.  Most of those arrested were charged with security related offences.

Jackson says Burundi has a history of reported torture cases, but until recently human rights in the country had been improving.  Torture was criminalized in Burundi's 2009 Penal Code.

"The situation had improved a lot over recent years," Jackson said. "There had been trainings by the United Nations and there has also been increased attention to past cases of torture.  And because of this, perhaps, we had seen an improvement in the situation."

Burundi's National Intelligence Service denies the torture accusation.  Its Legal Advisor told Amnesty International that any marks on the bodies of the opposition politicians would have been a result of them resisting arrest.  He declined to be interviewed by VOA.  A Burundi government spokesperson also declined to comment on the Amnesty report.

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