Repatriation of Burundian refugees
Over the reporting week, 219 Burundian refugees returned to their country of origin of which 194 persons arrived from Tanzania through the entry points of Makamba (119), Muyinga (54) and Ruyigi (21). Twenty people arrived from Rwanda while 5 others came from South Africa. UNHCR equally registered 4 spontaneous returnees from Tanzania. Meanwhile, UNHCR repatriated 3 Congolese refugees to Uvira. Since the beginning of this UNHCR assisted repatriation process in 2002 till date, 342,998 Burundians have returned to Burundi.
Update on Burundians expelled from Tanzania
During the week under review the Government project for the reintegration of war-affected persons (PARESI) registered 143 persons (69 families) expelled from Tanzania: 77 at the entry point of Kobero (Muyinga) and 66 in Mishiha (Cankuzo). Since January 2007, PARESI has recorded 3,331 expelled persons (1,781 families).
Update on food aid distribution
WFP distributed 986 MT of food assistance to 171,453 vulnerable persons through its various programmes: feeding centers, food for work/food for training, assistance to refugees, HIV/AIDS affected persons and targeted distributions.
Second round of immunization campaign
Health inclined UN agencies particularly UNICEF, WHO and UNFPA supported the Government of Burundi in the fight against maternal and neonatal tetanus. As a follow up to the first round of the tetanus immunization campaign which took place from May 7-11, the second round was carried out from June 18-22 as scheduled. The campaign which targeted 648,127 women aged between 12 and 45 years, covered the following 7 provinces: Bujumbura Rural, Bururi, Cibitoke, Gitega, Kirundo, Muramvya and Ruyigi which were identified as high risk areas. Main activities included the following:
- Immunize children between 0 and 11 months who missed the anti-measles and anti-polio vaccines;
- Complete the tetanus vaccination process for women of child bearing age, based on doses previously received and stated in their vaccination cards;
- Administer vitamin A to at least 90% of children between 6 and 59 months;
- Deworm at least 90% of children from 1-14 years;
- Provide a monthly requirement of iron and folic acid to at least 90% of pregnant women in their 2nd and 3rd trimester;
- Deworm at least 90% of pregnant women in their 2nd and 3rd trimester.
Agriculture / Food Security
The two weeks evaluation mission on the season 2007B crop harvest organized by FAO and WFP in close collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Husbandry has come to an end. The overall findings reveal that food production for season 2007B is slightly better than that of season 2006B. This production will enable households to improve on their food security over the months of July and August 2007. A final mission report is under way.
To commemorate the United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture June 25, the Ministry of National Solidarity, Human Rights and Gender in collaboration with the Human Rights and Justice Division of BINUB and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights organized a panel discussion against torture. Guests and participants included members of various civil society organisations, UN Agencies and victims of torture.
The main objective of this ceremony was to reiterate the Government of Burundi's commitment to the fight against torture and all forms of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of individuals. It was also aimed at expressing solidarity towards victims of torture and their families. Discussions focused on the conclusions and recommendations made by the United Nations Committee against Torture in response to Burundi's submission of an initial report (as stipulated in Article 19 of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment). See annex 1 below for further details.
Annex 1: Human Interest Story
Although Burundi ratified the Convention against Torture in 1993, populations continue to be subjected to various forms of torture. During the panel discussion, pictures were displayed of victims who had sustained injuries through; beatings, stabbings, tying and scalding with boiled water or melted plastic bags. Others underwent humiliation, intimidation and other forms of psychological trauma and degrading treatments.
During the ceremony, 22 year old J-B. Nd. testified of his ordeal in the hands of a law enforcement officer. 'I was on my way to school when I met a military officer who asked me to fetch him some wood. I explained that I would be late for school and told him to ask one of the locals around to do it'. According to J-B. Nd.'s explanations, his assailant got upset and yelled at him 'I quit schooling so you have nothing to say'. After which 'he beat me and broke my arm. The following day, my parent and I went to the military officer's office and the latter did not deny allegations made against him'. J-B. Nd. further explained that 'I have spent three years at home without going to school. When I was discharged from hospital, I tried to resume studies but since my arm continued to swell up, I could only listen and not write but after a while I decided to drop-out of school. My former classmates are now in high school. For over two years now our case is still pending in court because the military officer appeared once and never showed up again. The case is not making any progress' he stated in a sad tone.
During plenary discussions, participants raised the fact that torture is not defined in Burundi's domestic law which is pertinent to ensuring that perpetrators are punished. This aligns with one of the recommendations made by the Committee against Torture which welcomes Burundi's plan to revise its Criminal Code but also encourages them to include a definition of torture that is in conformity with article 1 of the Convention. Provisions should also be made criminalizing acts of torture and imposing criminal penalties proportionate to the gravity of the acts committed.
Secondly, participants also mentioned the absence of any measures to compensate victims of torture in judicial practice in Burundi. The Committee recommends that the State party should take urgent steps to facilitate the establishment of a compensation fund for victims to ensure their right to the fullest possible rehabilitation, including physical, psychological, social and financial rehabilitation. This fund will be extremely beneficial to victims such as 22 year old J-B. Nd. These are just two among other recommendations made by the Committee to the Government of Burundi.
In his recent message on the International Day in support of victims of torture, the Secretary-General of the United Nations stated: "As we join hands against torture, and adhere unequivocally to the notion that torture is unacceptable, we must never forget its victims. The United Nations Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture supports organizations assisting victims of torture and their families. Let me use this occasion to thank all donors to the Fund, and to encourage even more giving to this worthy cause. On this International Day in Support of Victims of Torture let us speak with one voice against the perpetrators of torture, and for all who suffer at their hands. And let us build a better, more humane world for all people everywhere."
In their opening remarks during the panel discussions, orators deplored the fact that despite sensitization campaigns and training activities, acts of torture still persist in the country. However, it is worth stating that the number of cases has reduced significantly compared to figures in previous years. Figures given by the Association for the Protection of Human Rights (APRODH) reveal that 538 cases of torture were registered in 2005, 152 in 2006 and 16 cases from January - June 2007. The majority of these acts were committed by the military, police and armed groups. APRODH explained that the number was particularly high in 2005 because the security situation was still precarious and the previously mentioned groups maltreated populations (which was the case with J-B Nd.). The organisation's representative further explained that the numbers reduced in 2006/2007 as a result of the improved political situation, the integrations of former combatants into the army and police as well as the introduction of the programme to demobilise ex-combatants.
At the end of the seminar, participants came to the following conclusions:
- Government commitment to fight against torture and to bring perpetrators to justice was well noted;
- There is need for further extensive training activities to include all actors involved in the protection of human rights;
- Advocacy for the adoption of the revised Criminal Code which include aspects relating to torture as recommended by the Committee against Torture;
- Advocacy for the ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance;
- Everyone should be involved in reporting cases of torture and not only victims themselves;
- The lack of coordination among actors was highlighted so it was recommended that ACAT Burundi (Action des Chrétiens pour l'Abolition de la Torture) should be the focal point in coordinating interventions in this domain.
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