Agents of the intelligence services, police and youth of the ruling party in Burundi arbitrarily arrested and mistreated dozens of suspected opponents.
The authorities accuse many people arrested, young men mostly trying to leave the country and seek to join an armed rebellion.
Human Rights Watch documented more than 148 cases between April and July 2015 in four provinces and in the capital, Bujumbura, involving agents of the intelligence services, police and members of the youth league of the ruling party, the Council National for the Defense of Democracy – Forces for the Defence of Democracy (CNDD-FDD), known to Imbonerakure (“those who see far” in Kirundi).
Most of these cases occurred in June and July. Many of the arrested were beaten, tortured or suffered other ill-treatment.
Imbonerakure (members of the ruling party youth league) attacked This is this 35-year-old form of Their party member on July 2, 2015, His arms tied behind His back, beat _him_ with sticks and tried to strangle _him_.
UNFOLD Imbonerakure (members of the ruling party youth league) attacked This is this 35-year-old form of Their party member on July 2, 2015, His arms tied behind His back, beat _him_ with sticks and tried to strangle _him_. © 2015 Human Rights Watch
Human Rights Watch interviewed more than 80 victims, lawyers, human rights defenders, judicial and other sources in these four provinces and Bujumbura.
Human Rights Watch is also currently investigating similar cases reported in other provinces. The total number of cases in the country is probably much higher.
To ensure the safety of victims and witnesses, Human Rights Watch does not disclose the scene of some of the incidents.
” The Imbonerakure have no legal right to arrest individuals. However they have arrested people arbitrarily, beat them and handed them over to intelligence services, who tortured some of them, “said Daniel Bekele, Director of the Africa division at Human Rights Watch.
“The Burundian government should publicly order all Imbonerakure to stop arresting people and ensure that Imbonerakure and agents of the intelligence services responsible for ill-treatment and torture are brought to justice. ”
Since the protests against the decision of President Pierre Nkurunziza to run for a third term, which began in April and were brutally repressed by the police , international attention has largely focused on human rights abuses in the capital.
However, many abuses have also occurred in the provinces of Burundi, far from the media spotlight. Due to the closure by the government of the main private radio stations in Burundi , one of the few sources of information on events outside the capital, many of these abuses have not been reported.
More than 140,000 Burundians have fled the country since March, seeking refuge in neighboring countries: Rwanda, Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Persistent rumors suggest that some Burundians were an armed opposition movement in exile.
On 10 July, an attack was perpetrated by an unidentified armed group that would have crossed the border into Rwanda in the province of Kayanza, northern Burundi.
Authorities arrested more than 200 suspected individuals in this group, according to authorities, some of which are prosecuted.
These events occurred in the context of municipal and parliamentary elections on 29 June and the presidential elections on July 21.
Of victims in several provinces have told Human Rights Watch that Imbonerakure arrested them and beaten, sometimes in the presence of agents of the intelligence services.
They described being beaten with clubs and batons, forced to roll in mud pits and hit in the face with his fists.
The Imbonerakure often delivered directly to the arrested agents of the intelligence services, which transferred them to the offices of the National Intelligence Service (SNR).
Once there, told the former prisoners, SNR agents and police officers beat them with electric cables to force them to confess to false accusations, as intend to join an armed rebellion in Rwanda.
Others were beaten with rifle butts and heavy clubs. In some cases, SNR agents forced them to undress and engage in humiliating and painful practices, such as jumping like a frog and walk like a duck or require them to crawl on elbows on gravel.
One man told Human Rights Watch that SNR agents have forced him and other inmates to stand on his head while they beat them.
A high level of SNR agent in a province gave orders to his driver and police officers hitting detainees. SNR agents have told the inmates:
“You, you fools! You are furious after only 10 years [during which President Nkurunziza in power] when you have ruled for more than 30 years [probably referring to the long period of Tutsi-dominated government in Burundi].”
A judicial authority has confirmed privately to Human Rights Watch that some members of the SNR tortured detainees.
Human Rights Watch has repeatedly tried to contact Telesphore Bigirimana, the spokesman of the SNR, but was unable to reach him.
When he was contacted by telephone, Nyabenda Pascal, president of the CNDD-FDD national, refused to speak to Human Rights Watch.
Denis Karera, National President Imbonerakure, told Human Rights Watch in a meeting that he had no knowledge of any allegations against the Imbonerakure individual.
He said some people commit crimes and are trying to blame the Imbonerakure.
He said: ” I am against violence. She comes from a Imbonerakure or not, I can not tolerate it. [The perpetrators] should be tried and sentenced according to law. A Imbonerakure has no privileges over another citizen. No one is above the law. If a Imbonerakure done something illegal, he must be punished. ”
Judicial authorities, lawyers and human rights activists told Human Rights Watch that SNR agents and the ruling party have strongly influenced judicial decisions or canceled some decisions of prosecutors and others.
The cases involving members of the opposition parties were often assigned to partisan judicial authorities of the ruling party.
A high-level judicial authority told Human Rights Watch: “The judiciary is not independent. The judicial authorities can not act independently according to their conscience. We can free someone, then immediately receive a call and the party members [CNDD-FDD] give an order. When Imbonerakure arrest people, we look helpless. We can do anything.”
The United Nations and the African Union (AU) should consider deploying observers to monitor the way the justice system treats suspected opponents of business and report violations of judicial procedures, said Human Rights Watch.
Furthermore, these observers should monitor and report on interference by the government or the ruling party in the judiciary.
This could be one of the functions of the new team of human rights monitors deployed to the AU in Burundi.
The UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and the Special UN Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers should be aware of emergency in Burundi and investigate recent abuses, said Human Rights Watch.
“Burundian intelligence services behave as if they had no accountability , “said Daniel Bekele.
“Those in power have politicized the judicial system, turning it into a weapon against the opposition. The authorities should free those arrested against whom there is no evidence of criminal activity and ensure that the judicial system to work independently and that human rights violations can be investigated without fear.”
Full confessions of torture here: http://bit.ly/1JQozrt