Special Rapporteur in Burundi: respect the work of Human Rights Defenders like Mbonimpa!

November 25, 2014

(Independent Expert on Human Rights Michel Forst. Photo: Jean-Marc Ferré)

On 25 November 2014 the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Michel Forst, expressed regret today that defenders in Burundi are deemed to be political opponents, saying that in reality they are activists working to promote and protect human rights and civil liberties. In a press release issued by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michel Forst, emphasized that threats and defamation campaigns by certain media outlets weigh on human rights defenders, who also report a high number of cases of physical threats, anonymous phone calls, assaults, arbitrary arrest and judicial harassment.

I was very struck by the incredible vitality and professionalism of civil society in Burundi despite the difficult environment in which they work,” Mr. Forst said. “They face serious obstacles that can amount to violations of their rights and fundamental freedoms, as well as their legitimate right to promote and protect human rights”.

Mr. Forst highlighted the cases of the arrests and repeated threats made against certain journalists and radio stations dealing with politically sensitive topics, such as the allegations of arms distribution or the “controversial” methods of issuing identity cards. In particular, he noted that the arrest and detention this past May of Pierre Claver Mbonimpa, a human rights defender [and Laureate of the MEA 2007], and the disbarment of Isidore Rufyikiri, the president of the Bar, constitute an “unacceptable escalation of the harassment of defenders” by the State’s authorities.

Freedom of assembly and demonstration is guaranteed by the Constitution of Burundi, but in practice only protests in favour of the Government are reportedly authorized, while all others are “systematically prohibited,” … “By adopting an abusive interpretation of the concept of public order, in effect, the authorities muzzle freedom of assembly and demonstration in public spaces,” Mr. Forst said.

The Special Rapporteur also pointed out that the draft law on associations being considered by Parliament includes provisions that hamper the creation and development of associations and that would “imperil the very principle of free association.” (e.g. the appointment of the heads of associations by the Minister of the Interior and his power to suspend the activities of an association are contrary to international norms).

The Special Rapporteur will present his conclusions in a report to the UN Human Rights Council.

United Nations News Centre – Burundi: UN expert urges defence of human rights activists to promote transparency.

2 Responses to “Special Rapporteur in Burundi: respect the work of Human Rights Defenders like Mbonimpa!”

  1. […] report on the situation of human rights defenders in Burundi, following a visit in November 2014. [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/11/25/special-rapporteur-in-burundi-respect-the-work-of-human-rig…]. During the special session on Burundi, ISHR made a statement to the Human Rights […]

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