Imprisoned, handcuffed and starved for four days

06.06.2016 ( Last modified: 16.03.2017 )

Sidoine (real name withheld) was the night porter at a hospital. One night, two vehicles driven by local officials arrived outside A&E. Without any explanation, the officials threw two injured men to the ground, seemingly following an altercation. While asking for details of the patients’ condition, Sidoine was slapped by the men driving the vehicles. He tried to escape but was caught and beaten up. No doubt fearing that other medical staff would arrive as backup, the perpetrators grabbed a half-conscious Sidoine and forced him into their vehicle. He lost consciousness on the way.

Sidoine was kept imprisoned for four days. Handcuffed for 32 hours straight and forced to share his cell with 40 other inmates, he received no treatment for the inflicted wounds. The only food he ate was that brought by his colleagues visiting him. It was also Sidoine’s colleagues who alerted the media to his fate; however, the public denunciations were quickly stifled under pressure from the local authorities.

Upon his release from prison, Sidoine had to spend a month in hospital to recover. He has remained in poor health ever since: despite the care and surgery, he has never totally regained use of his legs.


Upon his release, Sidoine tried to obtain justice. Three attempts before three different institutions came to nothing: the Burundian authorities did not want to hear anything of the torture he had suffered. Given the media hype surrounding the case, it is nonetheless likely that the legal and political authorities were aware of what had happened to him.

The national courts had done nothing for 18 months, which only left one option: seeking remedy at an international level. In 2012, assisted by TRIAL International, Sidoine brought his case before the UN, asking them to recognise the torture inflicted on him, and his right to compensation.

In 2014, the UN called on the Burundian state to open an investigation into the ill-treatment of Sidoine. The deliberate nature of the blows inflicted, the lack of food and the appalling conditions of his imprisonment were formally recognized.

Following this decision, the Burundian authorities opened an investigation. The proceedings are ongoing.


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