UA: 248/10 Index: AFR 16/004/2010 Burundi Date: 06 December 2010
BURUNDI: DEMAND RELEASE OF ONLINE EDITOR
Jean-Claude Kavumbagu, the editor of a Burundian online news agency, Netpress, has been
detained since July after suggesting that the Burundian security forces could not defend the
country. He has not been tried and was denied a bail request on appeal in November.
Jean-Claude Kavumbagu published an article on 12 July 2010, one day after suicide bombings in Kampala,
Uganda, criticizing the capacity of Burundian security forces to protect the country from a terrorist attack. Somali
Islamist armed group, al-Shabaab, claimed responsibility for the bombings in Uganda. They also threatened to
attack Burundi in retaliation for Burundi’s participation in the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).
Jean-Claude Kavumbagu’s article said that “the anxiety has been palpable in Bujumbura and all those who have
heard about [the bombings] yesterday in Kampala were convinced that if the al-Shabaab militants wanted to try
‘something' in our country, they would succeed with disconcerting ease, [as] our defense and security forces shine in
their capacity to pillage and kill their compatriots rather than defend our country.” He was arrested on 17 July,
questioned without a lawyer, charged with treason, and transferred to Mpimba Central Prison, Bujumbura.
Treason is a crime punishable by life imprisonment and is only applicable under Burundian law in time of war.
Jean-Claude Kavumbagu has also been charged with defamation and violating Burundi’s press law. Amnesty
International considers him to be a prisoner of conscience detained solely for exercising his right to freedom of
expression. His detention may detrimentally impact on the exercise of free expression in Burundi. It could increase
self-censorship by other journalists to protect themselves from arbitrary arrest and detention.
Jean-Claude Kavumbagu’s bail request was rejected on 6 September. At the appeal on 9 November, his defence
claimed that violating the press law and defamation do not justify preventative detention and that treason is not a
valid charge. However, the Appeal Court of Bujumbura confirmed his pre-trial detention on 11 November. As of 6
December, his lawyers had not received a copy of the ruling and were waiting for the trial date to be announced.
Mpimba Central Prison is overcrowded and insanitary and conditions fall well below international standards.
PLEASE WRITE IMMEDIATELY in French, English, Kirundi or your own language:
expressing grave concern that journalist Jean-Claude Kavumbagu has been detained on charges of treason and
defamation for criticizing the Burundian security services;
urging the authorities to release him immediately and unconditionally, as he is a prisoner of conscience detained
solely for exercising his right to freedom of expression;
reminding the authorities that, as a state party to the African Charter of Human and Peoples’ Rights and the
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Burundi is obliged to uphold the right to freedom of expression.
PLEASE SEND APPEALS BEFORE 17 JANUARY 2011 TO:
Pierre Nkurunziza, Président de la
République, Présidence de la
République, Boulevard de l'Uprona,
Rohero I, BP 1870, Bujumbura,
Fax: +257 22 24 89 08
Salutation: Monsieur le Président/
Minister of Justice and Keeper of Seals
Madame Ancilla Ntakaburimvo
Ministre de la Justice et Garde des
Sceaux, Ministère de la Justice et
Garde des Sceaux, BP
Fax: +257 22 21 86 10
Salutation: Madame la Ministre
And copies to:
The Prosecutor of the Republic
Monsieur Elyse Ndaye
Procureur Générale de la République
Fax: +257 22 27 30 53
Also send copies to diplomatic representatives accredited to your country. Check with your section office if sending appeals after the above date.