Burundi: UPR submission on situation of human rights defenders

The human rights situation in Burundi will be reviewed on 24th January 2012 under the Universal Periodic Review mechanism. During the review, which takes place at the United Nations in Geneva, a delegation from the Government of Burundi will present their national report and UN member states will ask questions and make recommendations for the improvement of the human rights situation in the country. To contribute to this process, the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project, Protection International and Front Line have submitted a report on the situation for human rights defenders between 2008 and 2012.

Despite some positive developments since Burundi’s first UPR (most notably the establishment of the Independent National Commission on Human Rights), the operating environment for human rights defenders in the country since 2008 has been characterized by state-imposed restrictions on HRDs work and repeated acts of intimidation and violence, often apparently at the hands of state actors. Institutional weaknesses and a lack of independence in Burundi’s justice system allow impunity for such acts to prevail.

Our key recommendations include the establishment of a national protection mechanism for human rights defenders, as well as measures to strengthen the judicial system to end the impunity for attacks on human rights defenders.

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Human Rights Defender of the month: Kasale Maleton Mwaana

Kasale’s human rights activism precedes his years. The son of pastoralist parents from Ngorongoro district in northern Tanzania, he grew up seeing his parents and entire community having to defend their land and way of life against authorities who thought their lands could be put to better use. Now, at 25, Kasale is already one of the most recognizable advocates of his people’s cause, much to the ire of Tanzanian authorities.
“Our people’s struggle goes back many generations. It started with the pushing out of our forefathers from Serengeti to gazette Serengeti National Park in 1959, and then further evictions from the Ngorongoro crater to gazette the Ngorongoro conservation area in 1975. Since then, every generation has had to resist further evictions. It’s now my generation’s turn,” he says.

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