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Human Rights Watch Report Targets Burundi Intelligence Service

A new report from Human Rights Watch accuses some members of the Burundi National Intelligence Service of serious human rights abuses. It says these include extra-judicial killings, hundreds of arbitrary arrests and torture.

Alison des Forge is the senior Africa advisor for Human Rights Watch. From the Burundian capital, Bujumbura, she spoke to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about the findings.

“In our new report we have documented a series of crimes over the past number of months, including five extrajudicial executions, the ‘disappearance’ of more than 30 people, whom we presume are dead because we’ve seen a series of bodies in the neighboring river. In addition, cases of torture and arbitrary detention. And in all of these cases we have reason to believe agents of the National Intelligence Service have been involved,” she says.

Asked what evidence the report relies on, des Forge says, “Interviews with victims, interviews with families of victims, the physical evidence of the bodies in the river. Also the work done by our colleagues in Burundian human rights organizations and by monitors from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights office. All of us have come to the same conclusions about these.”

She says it appears victims were linked to the FNL rebel movement, which recently signed a peace deal with the government.

Des Forge says the report has been submitted to the Burundian government after months of contacts with the intelligence service about the allegations. Today, she and others met with Burundi’s president, Pierre Nkurunziza.

“The president was very forthcoming in acknowledging that there had been abuses made by agents of the intelligence service. He was unwilling to acknowledge that there was any pattern to this, but rather insisted that these represented cases of misconduct by individuals. He assured us that there either had been or would be justice for persons involved in these crimes,” she says.

Two suspects have been arrested so far. Human Rights watch is calling for a “vigorous investigation.”