Burundi: End impunity for crimes of torture

21.10.2019
Four years after suffering severe torture, Miriam is still struggling with the psychological consequences. Yet the Burundian authorities have never investigated perpetrators of these crimes, meaning her torturers are roaming free and enjoying total impunity.   
Miriam was held in police custody for about 10 days, during which her right to medical attention was systematically denied. ©ThomasMartin

In December 2015, attacks by unidentified armed persons on military bases triggered a wave of repression by Burundian law enforcement agencies. Those most affected by this repression were those opposing the government.

Miriam (real name withheld) was a member of an opposition party in Burundi. The day after the attacks, and without any authorisation, soldiers came to her home to carry out a search, during which one of the soldiers “found” a weapon. Miriam did not know where that weapon came from.

Despite her protests, Miriam was taken by the military and then handed over to a group of police officers who beat her with a baton and made death threats. She was then held in police custody for about 10 days, during which her rights to medical attention and to consult with a lawyer or family member were systematically denied. Miriam then faced the judicial authorities, by whom she was interrogated and placed in preventive detention.

Miriam’s trial resulted in a heavy sentence for illegal possession of firearms, even though she continually denied knowing the origin of the weapon allegedly “found” in her home.

Facts denounced, but still unacknowledged

Miriam denounced the torture she had been through on several occasions. However, no investigation had been undertaken by the Burundian authorities to recognise these acts or identify those responsible. Almost four years later, Miriam continues to suffer the psychological consequences of these abuses.

Given the total impunity enjoyed by her torturers, it is not impossible that one day Miriam or her relatives may be subjected to reprisals. In view of this situation and in view of the obstacles to national justice, TRIAL International brought the case before an international body. It requests that protective measures be granted to her, investigations be carried out in her case and those responsible punished.