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Politically motivated violence against civilians must stop

'The civilian population is once again being used as an expendable political bargaining tool,' said the human rights organisation, after its latest mission to Burundi.

In a continuing escalation of violence and political tension in Burundi over the last week, three people were killed and at least 20 others were injured on 23 August when a grenade exploded in a crowded market in the centre of the capital, Bujumbura. On 19 August 35 people were reportedly killed by government soldiers in a massacre in the hills overlooking the city. Armed opposition groups have stepped up armed attacks, particularly around the capital and in the east of the country. Other political movements opposed to the peace negotiations have also perpetrated violence and at least six people have been killed in the capital itself since last week during violent demonstrations.

Amnesty International is calling on all those involved in the inter-Burundian peace negotiations to ensure that human rights are better protected and promoted in the agreement.

'Failure to look in detail at these issues may result in a further deterioration of the human rights situation.The future of human rights, not just the division of power, is at stake,' the organisation said today. 'Everyone involved in the conflict should refrain from acts which could jeopardise this future.'

Not only do scores of civilians continue to be killed by all parties to the conflict but there is a real potential for escalation unless the commanders of government forces and all other armed groups give clear instructions to ensure that members refrain from attacking unarmed civilians or from committing other human rights abuses. The government can and must take firm action to prevent groups under its jurisdiction from inciting or carrying out human rights abuses and to hold those that do accountable.

Amnesty International is also appealing to the international community to provide further political and material support to measures in Burundi which can in both the short and long term improve the human rights situation.

An Amnesty International delegation visited Burundi from 5 - 19 August. During its visit, the delegation collected information on extrajudicial executions by members of the government security forces, and deliberate and arbitrary killings by members of armed opposition groups Government and opposition forces have also been responsible for torture including rape and other violations of international humanitarian law. Many of the human rights abuses are direclty linked to the seven year old armed conflict.

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