In Burundi, a victim of torture still in danger

24.01.2019

Arbitrary arrest, incommunicado detention, torture – Benjamin went through hell in 2015. Unfortunately, years later, he is still living with a sword of Damocles hanging over his head. Why? His persecutors never had to answer for their actions… and might repeat them.

Ever since April 2015, the democratic space in Burundi has shrunk dramatically; civil liberties have been restricted; insecurity has soared and human rights violations have multiplied. These crimes have gone almost entirely unpunished, as the government in Bujumbura further isolates itself from the international community.

In this context, Benjamin (real name withheld) was arrested by a group of policemen in June 2015. He was forced to get into a vehicle and was held incommunicado for several days.

In detention, Benjamin suffered the worst forms of abuse: torture, humiliations and threats. At least three times a day, his torturers would persecute him to make him “confess” that he was fighting for the opposition.

Free, but still under threat

Benjamin’s detention has marked him deeply. Several years after the events, his body is still profoundly marred by the torture he underwent. Some of the wounds still cause him pain today, in spite of several surgical operations.

What is more, because he was still sought by state agents after his detention, Benjamin is condemned to an underground life, with no family life to speak of, and in the fear of being found out by his torturers, who never had cause to worry in spite of citizen mobilisation.

Recognised facts, but no sanction

The year of Benjamin’s detention, a Burundian human rights organization alerted the public of the treatments he endured. A formal complaint was even lodged and resulted in the opening of an investigation.

Hope was short-lived: while the magistrate found that the victim had indeed been tortured, no investigative action followed this declaration. In short, Benjamin stands no chance of seeing his rights acknowledged by the Burundian judiciary.

The case takes an international turn

In reaction to the passiveness of Burundian authorities, TRIAL International has decided to take this case to an international jurisdiction.

In its complaint, TRIAL International asks that light be cast on the case and that Benjamin be redressed. More pressing still, the organization asks that measures be taken to allow the victim to resume a normal life without further delay, in broad daylight and without fearing for his safety. Unfortunately, as long as the perpetrators go unpunished, he will go on living in a state of permanent anxiety.