Following the arrest of the former Burundian prime minister, Alain-Guillaume Bunyoni, on 21 April 2023, and his right-hand man Désiré Uwamahoro on 18 April 2023, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director Flavia Mwangovya said:
“This is an opportunity for the Burundian authorities to ensure accountability for serious human rights violations. Alain-Guillaume Bunyoni, in his previous role as minister of public security, had oversight responsibility for the police, who violently repressed real and perceived political opponents. Amnesty International has documented the involvement of Désiré Uwamahoro, who held several senior positions in the police, in such violations.”
This is an opportunity for the Burundian authorities to ensure accountability for serious human rights violations.Flavia Mwangovya, Deputy Regional Director, Amnesty International
The Burundian authorities should investigate all allegations of their involvement in serious human rights violations and crimes under international law, and if there is sufficient admissible evidence, bring anyone suspected of being responsible to justice in fair trials. Authorities must also provide victims with access to justice and effective remedies.”
“However, the lack of transparency around the arrests and detention is worrying. Authorities must ensure that those arrested are immediately allowed access to their lawyers and family visits. Authorities must also ensure that their rights to a fair trial, and rights to freedom from torture and other ill-treatment, are fully respected. They must also refrain from reprisals against Alain-Guillaume Bunyoni’s family, who were reportedly held incommunicado in their house for five days. Unless family members are also targeted by the investigation, there is no legitimate reason why they should not be allowed to move and communicate freely.”
Authorities must also provide victims with access to justice and effective remedies.Flavia Mwangovya
Alain-Guillaume Bunyoni’s homes in the economic capital Bujumbura, and in Rutana in south-eastern Burundi, were searched on 17 April. The Minister of Interior said on 19 April that Alain-Guillaume Bunyoni’s whereabouts were unknown, but confirmed that Désiré Uwamahoro had been arrested on 18 April and was being interrogated. Amnesty International has previously documented and reported on human rights violations committed both by the police falling under Alain-Guillaume Bunyoni’s oversight as minister, and by Désiré Uwamahoro, who has held several senior positions in the police.
Reports began to circulate on Friday 21 April that Bunyoni had been arrested in Bujumbura Rural. On 22 April, the National Human Rights Commission tweeted that they had visited Alain-Guillaume Bunyoni in detention, and that he had not been tortured or subjected to any other abuses, and that his family had been informed. They did not specify where he was being detained, or on what grounds.
According to a statement issued by the Prosecutor General of the Republic on 23 April, he had been arrested on 21 April at Nyamuzi in Bujumbura Rural province, without mentioning what he was accused of.
On 24 April, the spokesperson for the Supreme Court confirmed during a press conference that he was being held by the Service National de Renseignements (SNR, National Intelligence Service) and that he was accused of threatening national security, the good functioning of the national economy, and illegally receiving interest. She also confirmed that his family did not yet have the right to visit him but that this restriction would soon be lifted. It is not known whether he has access to a lawyer.
His wife and four of their children were reportedly not allowed to leave their house from 17 April until 22 April. His daughter, who is outside the country, tweeted that she was unable to contact them throughout that time.
Alain-Guillaume Bunyoni served as prime minister under President Ndayishimiye from June 2020 until September 2022, when he was dismissed after the president accused unnamed people of plotting a coup against him. The 51-year-old had previously held the position of minister of public security from August 2015 to June 2020, as well as from 2007 to 2011, and was one of a core group of leaders who dominate the ruling party, the National Council for the Defence of Democracy-Forces for the Defence of Democracy (Conseil national pour la défense de la démocratie-Forces pour la défense de la démocratie, CNDD-FDD).
In its 2017 decision to open an inquiry into the situation in Burundi, the International Criminal Court cited the reported information that the basement of Alain-Guillaume Bunyoni’s residence in Bujumbura was used as an unofficial place of detention. He was under on a US sanctions list from 2015 to November 2021, when the programme came to an end. In December 2022, the US placed him under travel restrictions “for his involvement in a gross violation of human rights”.