Although the civil war ended in 2006, cases of torture, extrajudicial execution and arbitrary detention are still a reality in Burundi. The shortcomings of the judicial system, the climate of impunity and the fear of reprisal are the main obstacles that hinder victims’ access to their rights. Since 2011, TRIAL has supported the victims of serious human rights violations in their pursuit of justice.
Since its independence in 1962, Burundi has suffered several coups and violent clashes between the Hutu majority and the Tutsi minority. The murder by the Tutsi-controlled army of the first democratically elected president, Mr Melchior Ndadaye (a Hutu) in 2003 triggered a civil war that lasted until 2006 and cost the lives of 300,000 civilians. A ceasefire agreement had been signed in 2000 between the government and the main rebel groups, but two Hutu factions’ refusal to stick to the peace process led to an escalation of violence.
In 2006, the last active rebel group – the National Liberation Forces (Forces Nationales de Libération, FNL) – signed a ceasefire agreement with the government, thereby putting an official end to the Burundian civil war. Despite that, fresh cycles of violence and serious human rights violations overshadowed the elections in 2010 and 2015.
The Burundian legal system has yet to provide an effective response to punish past and present human rights violations, or to prevent future ones. Within this context, the peace process cannot be sustainably consolidated, and the transitional justice mechanisms are still not well established.