André (real name withheld) was a ranked army member. One night, he was jogging with his friends when gun shots suddenly rang out. Armed men, some of whom were in civilian clothes and others in police uniform, rushed in and requested everyone to leave the premises. Unsure how to react, André and his friends remained in place.
Within minutes, André was tied up, searched, beaten, verbally abused and threatened with weapons. His mobile phone and identity documents were confiscated. His friends were subjected to the same torture at the hands of other armed men.
One witness recounts: “(…) There were people lying down on the floor in the mud. There were about ten people who were being continuously stomped on their backs (and insulted) (…) In spite of the fact that it was already night time, I could see mud all over their bodies and even on their heads, indicating that they had been dragged in the mud.”
They were crammed into a van. None of them knew why they were being taken nor where they were going. During the journey, André nearly passed out on several occasions because the pain caused by the blows was so sharp.
Retained in arbitrary detention during three years
Hours later, André was brought to a small room to be interrogated. He was so weak that he couldn’t walk and had to be helped by his jailers.
The latter questioned him about a plot against the government, in which he had supposedly participated. No matter how much André denied his involvement, the questions became increasingly insistent to the point where they turned into threats.
Having himself experienced torture and witnessed his friends being tortured, the victim preferred to sign a false statement. Despite this, he was kept in detention under inhumane conditions: locked up in a small cell of two square metres with no windows, forced to sleep on the bare ground and solely fed with rotten food.
It was not until three years later that André was freed. He still suffers to this day from the physical and psychological sequels related to this episode: post-traumatic disorders, anxiety attacks, sleep disturbances, etc.
After his release from prison, he tried to obtain justice in every way possible. In spite of his perseverance and the intervention of several human rights organizations in his favor, nothing happened.
In 2013, TRIAL International assisted André in filing of a complaint to the United Nations. The latter acknowledged the responsibility of the State of Burundi in this case and requested it to provide for reparation payments to the victim.
Years later, André still suffers great economic and security distress. In the face of the impossibility to reintegrate the army, he has gone through long periods of unemployment. André’s health remains worrying, but he cannot afford medical treatment.
His health still leaves a lot to be desired and he is regularly subject to stressful episodes: “I am relieved that the United Nations have recognized the injustices I have gone through, although nothing will ever erase the pain. In the unstable context in Burundi, I still live with the fear of my torturers finding me.”