Burundi: Shooting of human rights activist increases climate of fear

The brazen attack on leading human rights defender, Pierre-Claver Mbonimpa, is part of a disturbing escalation of politically motivated violence in Burundi and authorities must act to calm the situation and bring those responsible to justice, said Amnesty International.

Pierre-Claver Mbonimpa, president of the Association for the Protection of Human Rights and Detained People (APRODH), was shot and injured by gunmen in Bujumbura on 3 August. The attack took place a day after the assassination of General Adolphe Nshimirimana, chief security advisor to the Presidency.

“This brazen attack on Pierre-Claver Mbonimpa, a man who works tirelessly to protect the rights of others, is deeply shocking,” said Sarah Jackson, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes.

The Burundian authorities must act swiftly to reverse a growing climate of fear and violence by publicly calling for calm and bringing the attackers to justice.
Sarah Jackson, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes.

“The Burundian authorities must act swiftly to reverse a growing climate of fear and violence by publicly calling for calm and bringing the attackers to justice.”

Many human rights defenders and journalists have been forced to flee Burundi since the beginning of the year following the government’s crackdown on critics after President Pierre Nkurunziza’s decision to stand for a third-term in office.

On 2August, Esdras Ndikumana, a Burundian journalist reporting for Radio France Internationale (RFI) from the scene of General Nshimirimana’s murder, was arrested by government security forces. He was released from detention after a few hours after having been badly beaten and sustaining injuries including a broken finger.   

“Burundian authorities must ensure effective protection for all, including measures to allow human rights defenders and journalists to work in a safe environment. Politically motivated attacks, including the assassination of General Nshimirimana, must be independently and impartially investigated and those responsible prosecuted,” said Sarah Jackson.

“Regional and international efforts to end the crisis in Burundi should resume without delay to prevent further human rights violations.”

Background

Pierre-Claver Mbonimpa was a prisoner of conscience from May to September 2014 after being charged with threatening state security and using false documents. Though released on medical grounds, the charges against him are yet to be dropped.

During General Adolphe Nshimirimana’s nine year tenure as Director of Burundi’s National Intelligence Service (SNR), Amnesty International documented extrajudicial killings, torture, intimidation and harassment of political opponents. Amnesty International is calling on the Burundian authorities to investigate and prosecute those responsible for these violations and provide reparations to victims.

Amnesty International’s July 2015 report Braving Bullets: Excessive force in policing demonstrations in Burundi,showed how Burundian police used excessive lethal force to silence those opposed to President Pierre Nkurunziza’s bid for a third-term. https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2015/07/burundi-excessive-lethal-force-used-to-crush-demonstrations/

In April 2015, Amnesty International launched the Komera, Turikumwe (Courage, We are Together) campaign to stand in solidarity with Burundian human rights defenders facing intimidation and harassment in the lead-up to the country’s presidential election, which took place in July. https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2015/04/burundi-stop-harassment-of-human-rights-defenders-ahead-of-election/