Posts Tagged ‘Pierre Claver Mbonimpa’

The story of Pierre-Claver Mbonimpa: a survivor from Burundi

May 27, 2019

On 24 May 2019 Open Democracy published another long piece on an inspiring human rights defender – in cooperation with the Fund for Global Human Rights.  In “How international solidarity saved an activist’s life in BurundiAntoine Kaburahe describes the story of Pierre-Claver Mbonimpa, the laureate of the Martin Ennals Award 2007. [http://www.martinennalsaward.org/hrd/pierre-claver-mbonimpa-2/]. The author was personally involved in the case and the piece is a good example of how international solidairy can save lives.

A man standing beside children in green clothing
Pierre-Claver Mbonimpa visiting minors detained in prison
..Pierre-Claver Mbonimpa was the founder of a human rights organisation, APRODH, in his home country of Burundi, and it had worrying information: the ruling party was secretly distributing weapons to its youth wing. APRODH had also investigated the military training of young Burundians across the border in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where Burundians had been involved in a long-running conflict – without unofficial support from their government. In 2014 Mbonimpa had been imprisoned by the Burundian authorities, which accused him of “smearing the government and lying”. Thanks to an international mobilisation, including a call from Barack Obama, then US president, he had been released on parole, but the regime kept an eye on him…..Pierre-Claver Mbonimpa was used to threats. But that day, the killers meant them. It was in the evening that the news dropped. Pierre-Claver had been shot. Word spread rapidly: ‘Mutama’, the ‘old man’, as he is affectionately called, is well-known and respected for his commitment to human rights in Burundi…

Pierre-Claver Mbonimpa remembers well what had happened. He had been in his car with his driver. “I saw behind us a motorcycle that was riding at a breakneck speed. The bike got to us at a fast pace. The man shot four bullets. The shooting was almost close-range. A bullet hit me on the neck and blood spurted.” Bleeding heavily, he was rushed to hospital in a critical condition. I went there to see what was happening: at the time I was still a journalist in Burundi before being myself forced into exile. The crowd was already at Bujumbura Central Polyclinic.

Security guards sent by various embassies came to ensure my safety at the Polyclinic, because there was a rumour that I was going to be killed in my hospital bed,” says Pierre-Claver. “All the embassies worked in synergy for my evacuation. “Despite my weakness, my pain, I would like to say that I saw a great surge of solidarity at that moment,” says Pierre-Claver. “In my room I saw distinguished individuals such as diplomats of the African Union, those of the European Union and ambassadors.

It was clear to his supporters that Pierre-Claver needed to leave the country immediately. Currently in Belgium as a refugee, [his daughter] Zygène Mbonimpa remembers with overwhelming emotion the support of The Fund for Global Human Rights: “Doctors quickly noticed that Mutama had been seriously affected. He needed care he could not find in Burundi. And then, we were afraid he would be finished off on his hospital bed. I wrote to Tony Tate [programme officer at the Fund] and his reaction was quick. He agreed to pay for flight tickets, and the organisation also contributed to the payment of hospitalisation costs in Burundi.”

Tate confirms Zygène’s account... I immediately sought approval from my directors and board members to make an emergency grant,” he says. “We were able to wire the money to APRODH’s account within 24 hours. After the money arrived, it became clear that Pierre-Claver would receive other money and assistance from other funders as well. The money The Fund provided was combined with others to pay for the travel costs of one of his family members to accompany him to Brussels.

That financial support was critical. The Belgian embassy had agreed to give Pierre-Claver a visa, but the family had to find air fares in a very short time. “Without this support, we would have had a big problem to raise this money while Dad’s life was in a very critical condition,” says Zygène. Tate says he was pleased that the Fund was able to respond to the incident and ensure the safety of one of its long-time partners: “My hope was that the family would see that as an organisation, we stand by our grantees in good times and in bad,” he says. “As a human rights funder, we have an ethical responsibility to provide emergency funding when activists we support are in danger. Human rights work is inherently risky and those who support it must stand ready to respond quickly when defenders are in need.”

In Brussels, Pierre-Claver was quickly operated on. Doctors first fastened a metal frame on his head to hold his skull together. He spent 121 days in hospital, fed by serum and then a kind of porridge, as he could not open his mouth or chew food. He sat in an armchair, unable to lie down, and his weight went down from 82 kg to 54 kg. But his ordeal did not stop there. As they had missed him, those who wanted to kill him went after his family. First, his son-in-law, Pascal Nshirimana, was killed, and while he was still in the hospital, his son Weli, 24, was also killed. [see e.g.: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/11/12/mea-laureate-mbonimpa-has-message-of-hope-at-his-sons-funeral/]

Through all this, the now seventy-year-old activist has remained a man guided by peace and justice. We have never heard him speak of revenge…

Always on the phone, Pierre-Claver continues to encourage teams on the ground. He also travels very often in the sub-region. “It is important that the international community continues to support independent human rights organisations in Burundi,” he says, “because with the closure of UN organisations and the ban on international media including the BBC, there is a risk that human rights violations will be committed behind closed doors. Organisations such as APRODH still have focal points. But they need means to work.”

Pierre-Claver remains modest and accessible despite two honorary doctorates by major Belgian universities and several international awards. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/10/17/mbonimpa-wins-also-the-2017-civil-courage-prize/]. Asked what he thinks of those who tried to kill him, he simply answers: “I forgave those who shot me and those who killed my son and my son-in-law. But I want justice. If the assassins were arrested, I would be happy to see justice doing its job. For my part, I will not ask for any compensation. What would they give me for the death of my child and my son-in-law?

https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/frontline-insights/how-international-solidarity-saved-an-activists-life-in-burundi/

Amnesty just published major report on human rights defenders

December 6, 2017

This report – published on 5 December – is part of Brave, Amnesty International’s campaign launched in May 2017 calling on states to recognize the work of human rights defenders, and to ensure they are able to carry out their work in a safe and enabling environment. States around the world are failing in their duty to effectively protect people who defend human rights, leading to an escalation in preventable killings and enforced disappearances, Amnesty International said.

The organization’s new report, Deadly but Preventable Attacks: Killings and Enforced Disappearances of Those who Defend Human Rights, highlights the growing risks faced by human rights defenders.
The report includes testimonies from friends, relatives and colleagues of human rights defenders, including environmentalists, LGBTIQ and women’s rights activists, journalists and lawyers, who have been killed or disappeared. Many described how victims’ pleas for protection had been repeatedly ignored by the authorities and how the attackers had evaded justice, fuelling a deadly cycle of impunity. “We spoke to families of killed and forcibly disappeared human rights defenders all over the world, and kept hearing the same thing: these people knew their lives were at risk,” said Guadalupe Marengo, Head of Amnesty International’s Global Human Rights Defenders Programme. “Their deaths or disappearances had been preceded by a string of previous attacks, which authorities turned a blind eye to or even encouraged. If states had taken their human rights obligations seriously and acted diligently on reports of threats and other abuses, lives could have been saved.”

Cases include:
Berta Cáceres, a Honduran environmental and Indigenous activist who was shot dead in 2016 after years of threats and attacks. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/03/07/exceptional-response-from-ngo-world-on-killing-of-berta-caceres/]
Xulhaz Mannan, an LGBTIQ activist who was hacked to death in Bangladesh, along with his colleague, in 2016. Over 18 months later, justice is yet to take place.
Pierre Claver Mbonimpa, founder of a human rights organization in Burundi, who was shot in the face and neck in 2015. Months later, while he was recovering abroad, his son and son-in-law were killed. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/10/17/mbonimpa-wins-also-the-2017-civil-courage-prize/]
The “Douma 4”, four Syrian activists who were abducted from their office by armed men in December 2013 and have not been seen since.

When the UN General Assembly adopted the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders in 1998, the international community committed to protecting them and recognizing their crucial work. But Amnesty International’s report shows that championing human rights continues to be highly dangerous work, with thousands of human rights defenders killed or forcibly disappeared by state and non-state actors in the two decades since. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/11/21/breaking-news-un-adopts-key-resolution-on-human-rights-defenders/]
Amnesty International’s report reveals the motives behind these attacks are multiple and layered. Some people are attacked because of their occupations (for example, journalists, law professionals, trade unionists), for standing up to powerful actors violating human rights, for sharing information or raising awareness. Others are at heightened risk of attack both for what they do and who they are, facing discrimination and violence. These people include those defending the rights of women; sex workers; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people; Indigenous peoples and other minority groups. Others are attacked in context-specific situations, for example during conflict or where communities are in the grip of organized crime and violent crackdown.

  • Amnesty International is urging all states to prioritize the recognition and protection of human rights defenders.
  • Authorities must publicly support their work, and acknowledge their contribution to the advancement of human rights.
  • They must take all necessary measures to prevent further attacks on them, and bring to justice those responsible for attacks by effectively investigating and prosecuting killings and enforced disappearances.

 

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Mbonimpa wins also the 2017 Civil Courage Prize

October 17, 2017

On 18 October 2017, Burundi’s most prominent human rights defender, Pierre Claver Mbonimpa, will be awarded the Train Foundation’s 2017 Civil Courage Prize. The Civil Courage Prize recognizes individuals who demonstrate “steadfast resistance to evil at great personal risk.” Mbonimpa has won the prize for his work with the Association for the Protection of Human Rights and Detained Persons (APRODH), an organization that records the abuses committed by Burundi’s authoritarian regime, in its effort to crush dissent and advocates for justice for its victims. Mbonimpa, who currently lives in exile, has earned a reputation as the most vocal advocate pushing the regime to end its violent campaign against its political opponents. In August 2015, he survived an assassination attempt that left him severely wounded. During that same year, both his son and son-in-law were found dead shortly after being arrested during anti-government protests.

MEA Laureate Mbonimpa, Burundi

[see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/11/12/mea-laureate-mbonimpa-has-message-of-hope-at-his-sons-funeral/].

Mbonimpa won earlier the 2007  Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders, the 2015  African Human Rights Defenders Awards and in 2016 the Alison Des Forges Award for Extraordinary Activism (HRW). For more on all these the award see: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest

 

Burundian human rights defender Mbonimpa wins Alison des Forges Award 2016

September 3, 2016

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Public voting for the 2016 Human Rights Tulip has started

August 30, 2016

Public voting for the Dutch human rights award, The Tulip, has opened on 29 August 2016 and lasts until 7 September. Anyone can vote for their favourite nominee at www.humanrightstulip.nl or www.mensenrechtentulp.nl.

Human Rights Tulip

Human Rights Tulip Photo: Aad Meijer/Newsroom BZ

The Human Rights Tulip is an award for innovative human rights defenders. It is intended to support human rights defenders and organisations, publicise their efforts and inspire others. The 10 nominees are:

Mwatana Organization For Human Rights (Yemen),

Mr Pierre Claver Mbonimpa (Burundi),

Ms Nighat Dad (Pakistan),

the El Nadim Center (Egypt),

Centro de Derechos Humanos de las Mujeres (Mexico),

the native community of Santa Clara de Uchunya (Peru),

Centro Prodh (Mexico),

Mr Nguyn Quang A (Vietnam),

Ms Nahid Gabralla (Sudan) and

the Lebanese Association for Democratic Elections (LADE) (Lebanon).

Out of the top 3 nominees chosen by public vote, foreign minister Bert Koenders will select the winner, whom he will present with the award – a bronze tulip-shaped statue – on International Human Rights Day, 10 December.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Justice and Peace Foundation in The Hague together selected the nominees and provide support for the winning individual or organization. The winner receives €100,000 in prize money, enabling them to expand the reach of the work and allow as many people as possible around the world to benefit from the award.

In 2015 the Human Rights Tulip was awarded to IRA Mauritania (Initiative for the Resurgence of the Abolitionist Movement in Mauritania).  https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2015/12/12/2015-human-rights-tulip-awarded-to-ira-mauritania/

Source: The 2016 Human Rights Tulip: public voting starts today | News item | Government.nl

Important side event on Burundi on 4 March 2016 during UN Human Rights Council

March 2, 2016

logo_partners

DefendDefenders (East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project) together with the many NGOs, whose logos are shown above, will host the side event “Crisis in Burundi: Implementing Sustainable Solutions on 4 March 2016 (15h00 – 17h00), Room XXIV, Palais des Nations, Geneva.

Panelists:

  • Michel Forst, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of Human Rights Defenders
  • Pierre Claver Mbonimpa, President of APRODH (and Laureate MEA 2007)
  • Tom GibsonRepresentative for Burundi and DRC at Protection International

Moderator:

  • Hassan Shire, Executive Director of East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project.

The situation in Burundi is terrible as is know from the many reports issued already and the December 2015 Special Session of the UN Human Rights Council, which culminated in the adoption of a strong resolution mandating the High Commissioner for Human Rights to deploy a mission by independent experts to visit the country to investigate human rights violations, represents an important step to ensuring greater accountability for violations of fundamental rights in Burundi. However, the Burundian Government’s refusal to facilitate this mission has severely hampered efforts to identify and implement a sustainable resolution to the crisis [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2016/02/08/what-is-burundi-doing-in-the-un-human-rights-council/]. Although there is now a bit of hope as three investigators are due to visit Burundi for a week from March 1, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said in a statement. The three experts — from Algeria, Colombia and South Africa — are members of the UN’s Independent Investigation on Burundi (UNIIB). “Our aim is to help the state fulfil its human rights obligations, ensure accountability for human rights violations and abuses, including by identifying alleged perpetrators,” said Christof Heyns, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary of Arbitrary Executions who is one of the investigators. The African Union (AU) said it would increase the number of human rights and military observers deployed. “The AU will deploy 100 human rights observers and 100 military monitors to Burundi to monitor the situation,” a statement on the South African presidency’s website said Saturday.

Source: HRC31: Side-event on Burundi on 4th March at 3pm – East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project

http://www.timeslive.co.za/africa/2016/02/29/UN-to-send-human-rights-team-to-Burundi

UN and NGOs try to deal with Burundi on 17 December

December 16, 2015

Tomorrow 17 December there will be a Special session of the Human Rights Council on preventing further deterioration [now that is diplomatic language!] of the human rights situation in Burundi. The International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) is using the occasion to organize a side event on:  “Escalation of Violence in Burundi: Human rights defenders voices from the ground” from 09.00-10.00 am in Room XII, Palais des Nations, Geneva. It will be webcast live on www.ishr.ch/webcast. Follow on twitter using the hash-tag #BurundiHRDs.ISHR-logo-colour-high

Panelists (moderator Nicolas Agostini of FIDH):

  • Mr Pierre Claver Mbonimpa, Association for the Protection of Human Rights and Incarcerated Persons (APRODH), MEA Laureate 2007.
  • Ms Margaret Barankitse, Maison Shalom
  • Mr Anschaire Nikoyagize, Ligue ITEKA
  • Ms Carina Tertsakian, Human Rights Watch
There has been almost unanimity on the need for international attention and action. For those who want to see some of the major reports that came out recently, see the summary below. See also my earlier post: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2015/11/10/burundi-what-more-early-warning-does-one-need/

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Will the UN today adopt the strongest possible resolution on Human Rights Defenders? – ask over 100 NGOs

November 25, 2015

In a letter addressed to Member States, well over a hundred 100 international and national NGOs urged Members States to reject amendments intended to weaken the resolution on protection of human rights defenders, which will be adopted today, Wednesday, 25 November 2015 in the UN General Assembly’s Third Committee.
The resolution, as drafted, includes robust protection measures for human rights defenders, including the need to combat impunity for violence against human rights defenders and to release defenders who have been arbitrarily detained for exercising their fundamental freedoms. With the recent attacks on human rights defenders in places such as Burundi where the prominent activist Pierre Claver Mbonimpa and members of his family have been systematically attacked, it is time for UN Member States to take strong action to prevent and punish reprisals. However, amendments, tabled by the African Group, China, and Iran seek to dramatically weaken the resolution on human rights defenders and delete entire paragraphs regarding the need for their protection.At a time when the work of human rights defenders has become extraordinarily dangerous and increasingly criminalized in many states, it is important for Member States to send a strong message on the need to protect human rights defenders.

The text of the draft follows in toto:

SUPPORT THE DRAFT RESOLUTION ON RECOGNIZING THE ROLE OF HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS AND THE NEED FOR THEIR PROTECTION

Excellencies,

We write to you as a group of human rights defenders and civil society organizations located across the world working at national, regional and international levels. We write in regard to the draft resolution entitled ”Recognizing the role of human rights defenders and the need for their protection“ currently being advanced in the UN General Assembly’s Third Committee, and due to be adopted on Wednesday 25 November 2015.

We urge your government to support the abovementioned resolution and to reject amendments, tabled by the African Group, China and Iran, designed to weaken the text.

Among other things, the proposed amendments remove references to the legitimacy of the work of human rights defenders, delete or weaken language regarding the need for their protection, and delete whole paragraphs related to the need to combat impunity for violations and abuses against defenders and the need to ensure adequate procedural safeguards in judicial proceedings. A call for the release of defenders detained or imprisoned in violation of international human rights law, for exercising their human rights and fundamental freedoms, is also proposed for deletion. In addition, the amendments introduce notions that States should only support and enable their work ‘as appropriate’, rather than in accordance with the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and other obligations arising under international human rights law

Human rights defenders make a vital contribution to the promotion and respect for human rights, democratic processes, securing and maintaining peace and security, and advancing development in our countries. However, in doing this work, defenders often face a range of violations and abuses at the hands of State and non-State actors. States must acknowledge the role of defenders and the specific risks they face, and commit to ensuring their protection.

Seventeen years ago, all States agreed to the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, including State obligations to protect all human rights defenders working on all human rights. This commitment has been reiterated and built upon in subsequent General Assembly and Human Rights Council resolutions. We are therefore extremely concerned to hear that the abovementioned delegations have objected to several core elements of the draft resolution.

Based on consultations with over 500 defenders from 111 States, the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders found that in the vast majority of States the situation for human rights defenders is deteriorating in law and in practice. He concluded that a lack of awareness regarding their vital and legitimate work, combined with a lack of political commitment and weak institutional arrangements for their protection, is placing them, their organisations and families at elevated risk.

 

The resolution as drafted reflects a number of these findings and makes a series of recommendations for States and other actors. Importantly, this year’s text includes a key focus on the implementation of the resolution itself. This will hopefully prompt States and other actors to move beyond rhetoric in addressing the challenges faced by human rights defenders and take action to ensure the implementation of the calls in the resolution.

We urge all States to live up to their human rights commitments by supporting this resolution, by rejecting amendments designed to weaken it, and by taking concrete steps to protect human rights defenders.

Sincerely, (names of the NGOs)

see also: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/06/06/reprisals-states-must-r… 

MEA Laureate Mbonimpa has message of hope at his son’s funeral

November 12, 2015

Since I published my post about MEA Laureate Pierre Claver Mbonimpa two days ago (https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2015/11/10/burundi-what-more-early-warning-does-one-need/) the situation has not improved and the hope is that the UN will find the muscle to impose itself. In the meantime, the Huffington Post of 12 November carries a long piece on Mbonimpa and his Burundi by Charlotte Alfred under the title “Burundi’s Human Rights Legend Urges Hope After His Son’s Killing“.

<span class='image-component__caption' itemprop="caption">Pierre Claver Mbonimpa is founder and president of the Association for the Protection of Human Rights and Detainees in Burundi.</span>

Pierre Claver Mbonimpa founder and president of the APRODH in Burundi (CARL DE SOUZA/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

Pierre Claver Mbonimpa wasn’t able to attend his son’s funeral. Instead, he sent a message from Belgium, which was read out at the funeral of his son, Welly Nzitonda, on Tuesday, according to independent journalist network SOS Médias Burundi: “Do not lose courage … The tragedies we face will end with a resolution of the conflict in Burundi.

……..

“The problem that plagues the country is not ethnicity, but politics,” Mbonimpa told the Oslo Freedom Forum in 2010. “It is politicians who manipulate the population in pursuit of power.”

For the full article, worth reading, see: Burundi’s Human Rights Legend Urges Hope After His Son’s Killing

Burundi: what more ‘early’ warning does one need?

November 10, 2015

Pierre Claver Mbonimpa is President of the Association for the Protection of Human Rights and Detained Persons (APRODH) in Burundi. He was the Laureate of the MEA 2007 and on 27 October 2015 he received the Pan African Human Rights Defenders Network’s East Africa Shield Award. What happened to him in the last months is telling (for earlier items see: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/pierre-claver-mbonimpa/):

MEA Laureate Mbonimpa, Burundi

MEA Laureate Mbonimpa, Burundi

  • On 3 August 2015, prominent human rights defender Pierre Claver Mbonimpa – laureate of the MEA 2007 – was shot in the face and neck. He was forced to seek medical treatment abroad.
  • His son-in-law, Pascal Nshimirimana, was shot dead outside his home in Bujumbura on 9 October.
  • On 6 November, the body of Welly Nzitonda, the son of Mbonimpa, was found dead a few hours after he was arrested in the Mutakura neighborhood of Bujumbura where protests have taken place.
  • Just before that – on 3 November – Mbonimpa spoke out on a video message from the place where is recovering: https://www.defenddefenders.org/2015/11/voices-that-cannot-be-silenced-pierre-claver-mbonimpa-speaks-out-on-burundi/

On 9 November 2015 eleven leading human rights NGOs addressed an Open Letter to the UN Human Rights Council urging them to organize a special session to prevent (further) atrocities in Burundi.

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