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Burundi: Accusations of torture must be investigated

Burundian authorities must investigate allegations that state security officials tortured 12 opposition politicians during the country’s recent elections, Amnesty International said today in a new report.

Entitled A Step Backwards , Amnesty’s report details how the political figures were slapped, kicked and hit, at times with batons, all over their bodies.  Some reported being threatened with death and, in one case, one detainee reported having part of his ear cut off while being held by Burundi’s National Intelligence Service at their headquarters in Bujumbura between 23 June and 5 July.

Amnesty International’s Africa Programme Director, Erwin van der Borght said:

“Reports of torture in Burundi have decreased in recent years, and its re-emergence is a very troubling step backwards.

“It is unacceptable if members of the state security services get away with such heinous acts and if the investigation confirms individuals have committed crimes they should be prosecuted.”

The 12 were arrested and most were charged with security related offences in connection with a series of pre-election grenade attacks, many of which appeared to target the ruling party.
Those tortured were opposition party members, some in leadership positions, within their parties. During interrogations, suspects were asked about their party structures, colleagues and alleged plans to destabilise national security.

Burundi’s National Intelligence Service has denied the allegations of torture. Its legal adviser told Amnesty that any marks on the bodies of those concerned were the result of resisting arrest.  This explanation is inconsistent with the facts documented in Amnesty’s new report.

The Burundian authorities are yet to open a criminal investigation violating their obligations under national and international law. Torture was criminalised in Burundi’s 2009 Penal Code.

Erwin van der Borght continued:

“President Pierre Nkurunziza’s inauguration on 26 August offers an opportunity for the Burundian government to commit to ending impunity. The President must publically condemn torture and declare that any official, including SNR agents committing, ordering or consenting to torture will be prosecuted regardless of their rank.”

Amnesty International calls on the Burundian government to ensure future compliance of the SNR and other officials with international human rights law and Burundian law. 

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