An op-ed by Pamela Capizzi
The country showed no sign of improvement in 2016, perpetuating a detrimental situation for human rights.
By definition, a crisis is a transitional state. In Burundi, however, the “crisis” has lasted for almost two years and seems anything but transitional. Widespread repression is here to stay.
In 2016, the political situation in Burundi did not improve a bit. On the contrary, the Burundian authorities dug their heels in and gradually cut ties with the international community. Among the most notable examples are the retraction from the Committee against Torture’ examination and the withdrawal from the International Criminal Court.
These political gestures have been accompanied by a significant shrinking of the already reduced democratic space. Following the suspension of numerous civil society organizations at the end of 2015, Burundi suspended several others in 2016. Deprived of their assistance, abuse victims find themselves even more powerless than before.
At the same time, independent media have been reduced to silence by threats and attacks. The exodus of journalists and human rights defenders has only grown: dozens are now living in exile.
Human rights violations occur on a daily basis. According to the UN’s latest estimations, “More than a thousand people have been killed. Thousands have been tortured, (…) hundreds have disappeared, and thousands have been illegally detained”.
Even worse, these violations remain largely unpunished. Burundi is pursuing neither past nor present violations. The State is therefore incapable of preventing future abuse, a prerequisite to peace and transitional justice.
TRIAL will pursue its action nonetheless
In 2016, TRIAL International continued to chip at the “culture of impunity” that reigns in Burundi. 33 direct victims or families of victims have received free help in their pursuit of justice. 54 lawyers have taken part in TRIAL’s human rights trainings to tackle this crisis.
Despite the many challenges that stem from this situation, particularly with regard to security, TRIAL will continue its action in Burundi. My own expulsion from the country will certainly not halt our involvement: TRIAL will stand firmly by the victims.