Mr Pierre-Claver Mbonimpa is a prominent defender of human rights in Burundi. In May 2014, he publicly spoke out against the Burundian government’s policy of recruiting and training youths aligned with the party, who go by the name of “Imbonerakure” and are often accused of abuse perpetrated against civilians (pillage, violence, etc.). The day after taking this stance, Mr Mbonimpa was called in by the judicial police and answered their questions as best he could, sharing the information that he had gathered for his research.
A few days later, while he was getting ready to leave Burundi for work, Mr Mbonimpa was arrested at Bujumbura airport and spent the night in custody. The following day, he was charged with undermining the State’s domestic and international security because of statements made about the “Imbonerakure”. The Regional Court and the Court of Appeal of Bujumbura decided to hold Mr Mbonimpa in detention, accusing him of spreading misleading information, of exposing the country to hostile acts from another State, and of stating inaccurate facts.
It gradually became clear that Mr Mbonimpa’s detention resulted from his work as a defender of human rights and from the expression of his opinions. Numerous NGOs such as Human Rights Watch, Amnesty international, Frontline Defenders and the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders called for Mr Mbonimpa’s release.
On 22 May 2014, TRIAL International filed a petition before the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention on the victim’s behalf. The group handed down an urgent decision on this case, demanding that Mr Mbonimpa be released immediately and that reparations be afforded to him.