Country Profile

The human rights situation in Burundi remains unsettled following the announcement by President Pierre Nkurunziza that he plans to pass legislation via a referendum publicized in May 2015, enabling him to remain in office for a third consecutive term ending in 2034. Burundians have since and leading up to the announcement experienced difficulty in accessing their rights as arbitrary arrest, incommunicado detention and torture are being used to stifle the opposition and prevent civilian unrest. Incidences of injustice reported by the human rights council’s commision of inquiry have stated that atrocities in the country perpetuated by the ruling regime amount to crimes against humanity. Examples of repressive tactics on part of the ruling party include regular media bans, arbitrary arrest, torture, rape, beatings and threats against activists and opposition party members. Additionally, said crimes when committed often go unreported. Over 100 international NGO’s have had national operations halted due to the creation of several state enforced policies intended to marginalize the community of Human Rights Defenders operating in the country. Defend Defenders remains committed to battling these unjust policies and serving the interests of Burundians who seek a just and democratic society.

Freedom of Association

The Burundian government continues to supress any form of political opposition or dissent. Key civil society leaders wanted by the Burundian justice system were excluded from participating in the inter-Burundian peace dialogue at the end of May 2017 in Entebbe, Uganda.[1] Members of the opposition continue to be arbitrarily detained or disappeared altogether.

Edouard Nzambimana and Ladislas Sabukwigura, members of the National Liberation Front (FNL) party, were arrested on 15 May 2017 in Gitega province. [2] FNL activist Eric Ntirandekura was arrested on 23 May 2017 in Bubanza province – he had previously reported being threatened by members of the Imbonerakure militia prior to his arrest.[3]

On 13 June 2017, Aimé Gatore, the representative of PARCEM in the District of Mbuye was arrested by the National Intelligence Service (NIS) agents in Muramvya. Emmanuel Nshimirimana, the representative of the PARCEM in the Province of Muramvya was arrested on 17 June 2017 by the NIS. The two HRDs were arrested while preparing a workshop aimed at assessing the conditions of detention in the Province Muramvya.[4]

Germain Rukuki, an HRD working with the Association des juristes catholiques du Burundi (Association of Catholic Jurists of Burundi), was arrested after police searched his home without a warrant on 13 July 2017. He was detained for 14 days by the Service National de Renseignement (SNR), before being transferred to Ngozi prison without having appeared in court. On 17 August 2017, the Court of First Instance of Ntahangwa confirmed that Rukuki will remain in pre-trial detention on charges of “breaching the internal security of the State and rebellion.”[5]

SOS Torture Burundi noted the detention of three men by Imbonerakure militias on 9 August 2017 in Kayanza province. Emmanuel Nzambimana, Emile Bankuwunguka, and Claude Nizigiyimana are teachers and members of opposition parties who, prior to their arrest, filed an official complaint against the Imbonerakure.[6]

On 12 September 2017, the family of prominent opposition UPD member Leopold Habarugira reported his abduction in Bujumbura. Four men are reported to have leapt out of a car and taken him, one of whom was wearing a police uniform. Habarugira was one of the few opposition leaders to have remained in Burundi since the political crisis erupted in 2015 after President Pierre Nkurunziza decided to run for a third term in office.[7]

Freedom of Expression

Journalists operate in a highly threatening environment in Burundi and face many obstacles from the regime when covering breaking news and developments in an objective and thorough manner.

Antédeste Niragira, correspondent for the German radio and broadcaster Deutsche Welle in Burundi, was arrested by the DRC’s National Intelligence Agency on 17 May 2017 near the Burundian-Congolese border, while reporting on the conditions in the Kavimvira refugee camp in DRC. He was detained on charges of lacking accreditation and authorisation to enter the refugee camp, and on suspicion of espionage. He was handed over to the Burundian police on 22 May 2017, and released the next day.[8]

Joseph Bananeno, a journalist from Radio Maria, was detained on 4 July 2017 on charges of “incitement to public disorder,” for sharing information on WhatsApp regarding an armed man who intended to shoot Archbishop Evariste Ngoyagoye in Bujumbura. Bananeno was released two days later after paying a fine of 50,000 BIF ($28 USD).[9]

CCIB FM+ was temporarily shut down and taken off the air for three months by the National Council of Communication on 28 September 2017 for allegedly airing an editorial documentary critical of the authorities for their silence after the massacre of over 30 Burundian asylum seekers who were shot during a demonstration in Eastern DRC. By the same decision, the National Council of Communication also withdrew the broadcasting licenses of four independent outlets including RPA, Bonesha FMRadio Renaissance, and Telé Renaissance. The government said the broadcast went against professional ethics as well as the laws governing the press.[10]

On 1 October 2017, the correspondent of Bonesha FM in Makamba, Serges Sindayigaya, was arrested and detained under the order of the Governor of Makamba, Gad Niyukuru who demanded the journalist hand over his cell phone. After refusing, the governor reportedly snatched the phone and instructed the police to detain Serges. He was released after several hours.[11]

[1]     AllAfrica, “Burundi: Exclusion of “Wanted” Civil Society Leaders Causes Controversy At Burundi Peace Talks,” 26 May 2017,, Accessed 3 October 2017.

[2]     SOS Torture Burundi, “Report No. 75,” 20 May 2017,, Accessed 3 October 2017.

[3] SOS Torture Burundi, “Report No. 76,” 10 June 2017,, Accessed 20 October 2017.

[4] Bonesha, “Droits de l’homme : Bujumbura accusé par la CBDDH d’avoir failli à la mission de protéger les défenseurs,” 31 July 2017,, Accessed 16 October 207.

[5]     Frontline Defenders, “Court confirms pre-trial detention of Germain Rukuki,” 21 August 2017,, Accessed 3 October 2017.

[6]     SOS Torture, “Report No. 87 of SOS-Torture / Burundi,” 12 August 2017,, Accessed 3 October 2017.

[7] IWACU, “Family of Habarugira worried about his security,” 13 September 2017,, Accessed 20 October 2017.

[8]     Deutsche Welle, “Le correspondant burundais est libre,” 24 May 2017,, Accessed 3 October 2017.

[9] SOS Médias Burundi, “Bujumbura: Le journaliste de Radio Maria est libre,” 6 July 2017,, Accessed 20 October 2017.

[10]    Daily Nation, “Burundi radio station suspended for criticising killings,” 30 September 2017,, Accessed 3 October 2017.

[11]   SOS Médias Burundi, “Radio correspondent bonesha fm arrested,” 1 October 2017,, Accessed 16 October 2017.

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