To improve the human rights situation in Burundi, impunity must be stopped and prison administrators trained


Bujumbura, Burundi - "Human rights are like democracy. They require constant improvement," Mr. Ismael Diallo, Director of the Human Rights Division, said in his brief introduction during the weekly press conference of the United Nations Operation in Burundi (ONUB). "In no country in the world are all the 30 articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights respected strictly and daily," he added.

However, these statements are not in any way meant to justify the virtually daily human rights violations in Burundi. Thus, ONUB's Human Rights Division has just published a monthly report (June 2005) and a quarterly report (April-June 2005) on the human rights situation in Burundi. Both are damning. The reports concern cases such as violations on the right to life, security, physical integrity, free movement, property ownership, the right to a fair hearing, as well as threats to freedom of opinion and expression.

In Burundi, the perpetrators of the many cases of human rights violations are seldom punished, as they are hardly arrested. According to Mr. Diallo, two groups are particularly guilty of committing these violations, namely, the Hutu People's Liberation Party-National Liberation Front (Palipehutu-FNL), the last rebel party which has so far refused to join the transitional government, and members of the National Defence Force (FDN), which is responsible for the country's security. "When perpetrators are not clearly identified, public opinion tends to accuse the FNL. When alleged perpetrators are clearly identified, they are often soldiers of the National Defence Force," the Director of the Human Rights Division explained.

As Burundian authorities are unable to arrest people found guilty of serious crimes, impunity continues and cases of violation remain high." Thus, I can tell you that, last May, 53 people were victims of summary executions and extrajudicial killings perpetrated by FDN soldiers and FNL elements," Mr. Diallo disclosed.

As concerns people pining in prisons, their conditions of detention are deplorable because the prisons are over-populated, with sometimes thrice or more the number of inmates intended for a normal cell." The Director of the Human Rights Division added that this situation is compounded by the fact that the prisons are old and the prison administrators are not adequately trained.

The insufficient training of the prison administrators was once more evidenced recently by the shocking scenes during which prisoners who tried to escape were shot dead. However, Mr. Diallo conceded to Burundian journalists in attendance that "many uniformed personnel (police, military and gendarme officers) violate human rights not out of wickedness but rather out of ignorance. This is why human rights must be promoted very much in order to foster conviviality and a civilized way of living in society."

Sexual abuse is topmost among the daily acts of human rights violations. To change this trend, ONUB's Human Rights Division and local and international NGOs have, over the past three months, been conducting an awareness campaign across the country on sexual abuse. "It will take another couple of months to determine the impact of this campaign, but one can say that there has been a positive change in people's behaviour with regard to sexual abuse which is perpetrated mostly against young people and minors of both sexes," Mr. Diallo concluded.


Isabelle ABRIC, Chef, Information Publique/ Chief, Public Information
Penangnini TOURE, Porte-parole/ Spokesperson
Mobile: +257 853 444, ONUB: +257 24 80 09 to 14, via New York: +1-212- 963 2839/42; Fax: +257 21 28 68
tourep@un.org, publicinformation@un.org