Burundi’s Independent National Commission on Human Rights (CNIDH) said on Friday it was deeply concerned by the continued detention of 22 school pupils who were accused of scribbling on pictures of the country’s President Pierre Nkurunziza in their school textbooks.
CNIDH President Jean-Baptiste Baribonekeza told reporters at a media conference that his commission was against any kind of sanctions, which jailed schoolchildren or permanently excluded them from school.
“The commission does not agree with the decision to put pupils in jail. All those jailed pupils are the children of the country. They should be released to keep appearing in court from home,” said Baribonekeza.
However, he added that the commission was not against sanctioning pupils who made mistakes. “Authorities should focus on moderate penalties which are alternative to imprisonment and permanent exclusions, like community service or the obligation to change schools,” he said.
On Thursday, US Envoy for the Great Lakes Thomas Perriello, at the end of a two-day visit to Bujumbura, also expressed concern over the arrest and continued detention of students for defacing textbooks and for related demonstrations.
The group of human rights experts of the United Nations Independent Investigation on Burundi (UNIIB), led by South Africa’s Christof Heyns who came to Burundi two weeks ago, also criticized the arrests and detention of the schoolchildren.
The UNIIB was mandated by the UN to assess the human rights situation in Burundi since the beginning of this year.
The practice of scribbling on pictures of Nkurunziza has spread to many schools in the country and about 600 pupils were now being investigated.
Baribonekeza also criticised the surge of human trafficking of Burundians to Gulf States like Saudi Arabia and Oman. “Immediate actions have to be taken to address the problem,” he said.
Since the beginning of this year, 267 young girls had been trafficked by 11 companies, national police spokesman Pierre Nkurikiye said.
“The network was made of seven persons, three Burundians and four Kenyans. They have all been arrested. The police also identified 11 companies involved in the human trafficking: four companies are in Burundi, four others in Saudi Arabia, two in Oman and another in Kenya,” Nkurikiye said.
Africa News Agency