new victims supported


new cases at international level


trained legal professionals


annual budget (CHF)

The political crisis has not prevented the continuation of TRIAL International’s activities. As one of the few organizations still active in the field, it played a major role in bringing the victims’ suffering to the attention of international bodies.

Biased referendum and international opprobrium

On 17 May 2018, the population voted in favor of constitutional revisions, including provisions for President Pierre Nkurunziza to stay in office until 2034. These results came as no surprise, as all opposition voices were muzzled in the run-up to the vote.

Read more: Referendum takes place among fear and repression

In its last report, the United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Burundi found that in 2018, mass human rights violations were still occurring in the country. Reported cases of extrajudicial execution, enforced disappearances, arbitrary detention, torture and sexual violence may constitute crimes against humanity.

Read more: Four questions to understand the Commission of Inquiry’s conclusion

Domestic shutdown does not discourage TRIAL International

The already limited international presence in Burundi has further shrunk throughout the year. Local authorities ordered the closure of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Burundi and suspended the activities of almost all international NGOs in the country.

Read more: NGOs denounce “a campaign of terror”

Because it is not registered as a Burundian organization, TRIAL International was able to follow through with its activities in 2018 – one of the very few international NGOs to do so. It relocated its training programs to neighboring countries and reinforced protective measures for participants. The climate of fear also made it more difficult for victims’ to report abuse.

Read more: Political opponent fears for his safety

Documenting present crimes crucial for future accountability

While the current situation hampers the prosecution of those responsible for mass atrocities, it remains paramount that those violations are properly and rigorously documented. Keeping records remains the only way to ensure that victims could one day get justice – either at domestic or international level. As many international NGOs disengage from Burundi, TRIAL remains a crucial link between victims on the ground and international bodies.

Read more: When international bodies finally deliver justice

Sexual violence, in particular, remains widely under-reported and under-documented. Based on its fact-finding mission in late 2017, TRIAL International’s staff produced tailored reports for various international bodies monitoring Burundi and experts in sexual and gender-based violence.

Read more: Sexual violence, the hidden face of the Burundian crisis

Capitalizing on local capacity

Executing its strategy of building local autonomy, TRIAL International coached two local lawyers, themselves trained in the past by the organization, to deliver legal training to their peers. This brought the total of local trainers to three, allowing maximum physical presence and optimal follow-up with trainees.

Moreover, local capacity-building took a regional turn in 2018, with TRIAL International’s first joint training for Burundian, Congolese and Rwandan lawyers.

Conducted in partnership with the Great Lakes Association Bar, it heralded the organization’s new cross-border strategy in the African Great Lakes, aiming to systematize its support and enhance horizontal cooperation between practitioners.

Read more: First Great Lakes training launches regional strategy