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BURUNDI: Prominent Human Rights Defender Injured in Brutal Attack

The East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project (EHAHRDP) condemns the attempted assassination of prominent human rights activist and civil society leader, Pierre Claver Mbonimpa. Mr. Mbonimpa was shot by unknown gunmen riding on motor bikes last evening as he drove home. He was seriously injured on the neck and face area and is currently recuperating in the intensive care unit at Bujumbura Hospital.

Mr. Mbonimpa is the President of Association for the Protection of Human Rights and Detained Persons (APRODH), a leading human rights organization in Burundi and is one of the most vocal members of civil society in the country.

Like several other human rights defenders and political opponents, Mr. Mbonimpa has been a victim of the constant government crackdown on dissenting voices. On 27th April 2015, he was rearrested by Burundian police in reportedly violent circumstances. This was after his release from detention on medical grounds in September 2014, after an enormous international outcry. In 2014, he was arrested and charged on entirely baseless charges of ‘endangering state security’, charges that currently stand.

“The attack on Mbonimpa’s life is very worrying and sends a chilling message to human rights defenders that dare to speak truth to power,” said Mr. Hassan Shire, Executive Director, EHAHRDP, “the government of Burundi and the international community at large should call for respect of life and liberty rights as recognized in the Constitution of Burundi.”

Since April 2015, when president elect Pierre Nkurunziza decided to run for a controversial third term, the country has been plunged into unrest. President Nkurunziza won the heavily criticized July elections that were boycotted by most opposition political parties, amidst protests by hundreds of Burundian citizens and brutal clashes between the protestors and police that resulted into loss of six lives on 27th April.

This shooting comes after the 2nd August assassination of General Adolphe Nshimirimana, former Head of Intelligence Services and ally of President Nkurunziza, incidences that may further tilt the already tense situation in the country.

Burundian authorities should promptly investigate the circumstances around the shooting and prosecute the perpetrators according to international human rights law and standards. The government should also ensure the safety of its entire people including a safe space for human rights defenders to continue doing their crucial work.