EXTERNAL AI Index: AFR 16/03/96
UA 46/96 Fear of torture / Legal concern 26 February 1996
Jean-Paul Habarugira, school student
and six others (names unconfirmed)
Amnesty International fears that 16 people, currently believed to be held in
the headquarters of the Brigade spéciale de recherche (BSR), Special
Investigation Brigade, in the capital, Bujumbura, may be facing torture or
ill-treatment. The organization is also concerned that they may remain
detained without charge and without being allowed an opportunity to challenge
their detention before an impartial judicial official.
The first nine named above and six others whose identities remain unconfirmed,
were arrested on 18 February 1995 with 51 others by the security forces at
Gasenyi, a suburb of Bujumbura. Jean-Paul Habarugira, a student at Musema
Secondary School, in Kayanza Province, was arrested on 15 February 1995 by
the BSR at Gasenyi.
The arrests on 18 February took place following a shoot-out which reportedly
took place between government forces and an armed group near Gasenyi, where
there is a camp for Hutu displaced by the civil war. As instructed by the
authorities, when civilians heard the shooting, they ran towards a position
held by government forces. Government forces then arrested 66 men of fighting
age and accused them of being members of armed groups. Several men managed
to escape as the rest were climbing on to military trucks. About 60 of those
arrested were first taken to Second Intervention Battalion in Ngagara, where
five men were released. The remaining 55 were taken to the BSR headquarters
where 40 were released on 18 and 19 February. The remaining 15 are believed
to be still held at the BSR.
Suspects held at the BSR are almost always subjected to torture and other forms
of ill-treatment, such as beatings and kneeling on sharp objects, mainly to
extract confessions and to force them to incriminate themselves and others.
Burundi has been in a state of civil war since 21 October 1993 when President
Melchior Ndadaye, a Hutu, was killed by government soldiers during a coup
attempt. About 5,600 people, most of them members of the majority Hutu ethnic
group, are being held in a number of detention centres around Burundi. The
detainees are accused of killing members of the minority Tutsi ethnic group
and Hutu members of Tutsi-dominated political parties, and of belonging to
exclusively Hutu or Hutu-dominated armed groups which have been fighting the
Tutsi-dominated government forces. Most of the detainees are held without charge
and all of them without trial.