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Aug-27-2010 18:05printcommentsVideo

Burundi, Investigate Torture!

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

Image from Burundi
Image from Burundi

(PORTLAND, Ore.) - Amnesty International (AI)is strongly urging Burundian authorities to investigate allegations of torture by state security officials of 12 opposition politicians during the country's recent elections.

The organization released a briefing paper A Step Backwards* detailing the treatment; "individuals were slapped, kicked and hit, at times with batons, all over their bodies; some reported being threatened with death. In one case, part of a detainees ear was cut off while being held by Burundi's National Intelligence Service (SNR) at their headquarters in Bujumbura between 23 June and 5 July."

"Reports of torture in Burundi have decreased in recent years, and its re-emergence is a very troubling step backwards," said Erwin van der Borght, Africa Programme Director at Amnesty International. "It is unacceptable" he added, "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 opposition members were arrested and charged with security related offences that appeared to target the ruling party through a series of pre-election grenade attacks. During SNR interrogations the opposition members were tortured and made to answer questions about their party structures, colleagues and alleged plans to destabilize national security.


SNR has denied the allegations of torture. SNR's Legal Advisor told Amnesty International “any marks on the bodies of those concerned were the result of resisting arrest.” This is however inconsistent with the findings documented in A Step Backwards*.

The Burundian authorities have yet to open a criminal investigation, violating their obligations under national and international law. Torture was criminalized in Burundi's 2009 Penal Code. Burundi also acceded to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment in 1993. The country is also a signatory to the 1981 African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights which prohibits torture.

"President Pierre Nkurunziza's inauguration on 26 August offers an opportunity for the Burundian government to commit to ending impunity," Erwin van der Borght told Salem-News.com. He added "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 has called on the Burundian government to ensure future compliance of the SNR and other officials with international human rights law and Burundian law.

*A Step Backwards, AI Report amnesty.org/en/library/info/AFR16/002/2010/en

*Sources: Amnesty International

*Video courtesy of AI


Alysha Atma spends many hours working on projects that support and benefit the beleaguered people of African nations who spend way too much time off the western media's radar. This writer explains that she is a culmination of all her experiences, most importantly knowledge she says, and all that she still needs to learn; lessons of love, laughter and the extraordinary giving of both young and old. She says she has the enormous fortune of learning from the best; every person around her, and the amazing strength and fortitude of those she has never met but will always strive to listen to. "I continue to work and write because I believe in the power of community and the power of one, both contradictory to each other and yet can move together in a very powerful way. I feel a responsibility to use my place, freedoms and connections here in the US to stand up and yell for those who need my voice and actions. I have seen such strength in my fellow humans that I cannot even begin to comprehend, they have traveled distances, have gone without food, water, shelter and safety for days and weeks at a time. I have a responsibility as a fellow human to put our common humanity before anything else. Everyone deserves to look towards tomorrow, to dream of a safe future and to have a peaceful present." You can write to Alysha Atma at: alysha.atma@gmail.com




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