The United States has expressed deep concern over the death of Jacques Bihozagara, a former Rwandan ambassador and government minister, in the Bujumbura, Burundi, prison where he had been detained since 2015.
Mr. Bihozagara’s death highlights abiding concerns about inhumane prison conditions in Burundi, as well as persistent credible reports of arbitrary arrests, increased torture, the presence of underground detention facilities, and disappearances of individuals detained by security forces.
John Kirby, the Assistant Secretary and Department Spokesperson, Bureau of Public Affairs Washington, DC, said while Burundian authorities have allowed independent experts from the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR) access to some political prisoners, the conditions for thousands of prisoners are unknown.
“We remain concerned about a lack of due process in many of their cases.”
High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid reported to the Security Council this month that over half the detainees his team met with in Burundi showed signs of having been tortured.
“We call on the Government of Burundi to provide unfettered access to monitors and observers from OHCHR, the AU, and other independent organizations to monitor the conditions of prisoners and prison facilities, as well as to investigate broader allegations of human rights abuses.”
Meanwhile, the Government of Rwanda is seeking clarification from Burundi explaining why the former ambassador to France was detained in the first place.
Burundi says Bihozagara was in Bujumbura to spy on behalf of Kigali.
Eugene Ngoga, Africa Director at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said: “Jacques Bihozagara is one of many Rwandans in Burundi who have died violently or suspiciously in the past several months.”
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Rwanda wishes to obtain precise information from Burundian authorities on the circumstances of Mr Bihozagara’s death and clarification on the reasons for his detention since last December”.
The Rwanda ministry of Foreign Affairs has called upon Burundi authorities to facilitate the family of the deceased in repatriating his body back home.