EXTERNAL AI Index: AFR 16/33/97
15 August 1997
Further information on UA 254/97 (AFR 16/29/97, 1 August 1997) - Execution
/ Fear of further executions and continuing Legal concern
At least 150 people under sentence of death in Burundi
At least 150 people are now under sentence of death in Burundi and Amnesty
International fears they could face imminent execution, if presidential
clemency is not given. At least 20 death sentences were passed in Burundi
during July 1997 in trials connected to the massacres which followed the
assassination of former President Melchior Ndadaye in October 1993. At least
seven people have been condemned to death in Gitega and 14 in Ngozi. More
death sentences are also believed to have been passed in Bujumbura, the capital.
Fears of further executions are compounded by the Burundi government’s response
to criticism of the executions carried out on 31 July, in which it has clearly
indicated its intention to continue executions. Although the six men named
above were denied legal representation, at least one, Stanislas Machini, was
tortured, and defence witnesses were not heard, the Burundi government has
asserted the trials were fair.
The executions, the first to be carried out in Burundi since 1981, have been
condemned internationally by governments including Uganda, Tanzania, Zimbabwe,
currently holding the presidency of the Organisation of African Unity, and
the United States as well as the by the Presidency of the European Union (EU)
which issued a statement on 13 August 1997 which said "...the execution of
the six prisoners bears all the hallmarks of a deliberate political act.
Furthermore the EU considers that the prisoners who were condemned to death
did not receive a fair trial, conducted in accordance with the rules of a truly
impartial and independent judicial system. While recognizing that the cycle
of impunity in Burundi must be broken, the EU considers that legal certainty
in Burundi can only be reestablished by means of trials which offer all the
judicial safeguards of the rule of law".
Amnesty International remains seriously concerned that flaws in pre-trial and
trial procedures, such as torture, lack of substantiating evidence, lack of
defence witnesses, and lack of legal representation mean that the trials cannot
be considered to have been impartial. During 1996, virtually all defendants
were denied legal representation. Despite the gravity of the alleged offences
and potential severity of the sentences the majority of the trials are reported
to last only a couple of hours. There have been a number of acquittals. Under
the Burundi legal system, defendants may only appeal on certain, limited
grounds. There is no other option to challenge either the conviction or
sentence. Defendants may then seek presidential clemency.