BURUNDI: Sentenced to 32 years in prison, Germain Rukuki is the victimof a travesty of justice
Paris-Geneva, April 27, 2018 –Human rights defender Germain Rukuki has been sentenced to 32 years following atrial marred by irregularities. The Observatory for the Protectionof Human Rights Defenders (FIDH-OMCT) condemns one of the heaviest sentencesever handed down against a human rights defender in Burundi.
On April 26, 2018, the Ntahangwa High Court sentenced human rights defender Germain Rukuki to 32 years in prisonfor “participation in an insurrectional movement”,“undermining State security” and “rebellion”. Neither Germain Rukuki, nor hislawyers were present while the sentence was read out. Germain Rukuki has been detainedsince July 2017 for his work with Actiondes chrétiens pour l’abolition de la torture in Burundi (ACAT-Burundi),which documents acts of torture and other crimes committed throughout thecountry, mainly by President Nkurunziza’s regime.
Thisdecision, which is clearly politically motivated, comes three weeks ahead of a highlycontroversial constitutional referendum aimed at allowing PresidentNkurunziza to remain in power until 2034, and three years after the beginningof the Burundian crisis, sparked by the announcement of Pierre Nkurunziza’sintention to run for a third term.
“Tried behind closed doors within the Ngozi prison,charges brought last minute without investigation, lawyers prevented from accessing parts of the file,Germain Rukuki’s harsh sentence clearly illustrates the Burundian authorities’willingness to silence all human rights defenders in the country” said Drissa Traoré, FIDHVice-President.
Throughout his trial Germain Rukuki became a symbol ofthe repression and judicial harassment targeting Burundian human rightsdefenders since the beginning of the crisis in April 2015.All of the judicial proceedings against him were marred by numerousirregularities. Germain Rukuki was first arrested and illegally detainedwithin the national intelligence premises (SNR) before he was transferred tothe Ngozi prison and appeared before the Court twice, facing systemicviolations of his right to a fair trial. No concrete or convincing proof of hisguilt was ever presented, and numerous elements show that his sentence is aboveall a political decision. During his first hearing, on February 13, 2018, some foreigndiplomats were prevented from observing the trial. According to our sources,Germain Rukuki intends to appeal the decision.
“This is an unprecedented decisionand a clear message to all those who are shedding light on the crimes committedby the regime. We firmly condemn this travesty of justice which illustrates thecomplicity of Burundian judicial authorities as willing executioners the regime’sorders”, added Gerald Staberock, OMCT Secretary General.
Thissentence is a clear act of reprisal against Germain Rukuki’s peaceful andlegitimate human rights activities. The Observatory calls upon the Burundianauthorities to ensure his immediate and unconditional release and to ensurethat his right to a fair trial is upheld.
Since 2015, the Observatory has documented daily human rights violations committed by the Burundian authorities, who do not demonstrate any tolerance towards those considered to bepolitical opponents and systemically kill, torture, kidnap, arrest and jailoutside of any legal framework those who criticize the government. Similarly,the Burundian civil society has been relentlessly targeted, through bansof major human rights organisations, adoption of legislation aimed atcontrolling civil society organisations, enforced disappearances, arrests andillegal detention of human rights defenders, continued judicial harassment and heavycriminal sentences. The treasurer of the Ligue ITEKA, Marie-ClaudetteKwizzera, was kidnapped by SNR agents on December 13, 2015. She remainsmissing and is likely to have been killed.
TheObservatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) wascreated in 1997 by FIDH and OMCT. The objective of this program is to preventor remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. FIDH andOMCT are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanismimplemented by international civil society.
Formore information, please contact:
- FIDH: Maryna Chebat: +33 6 48 05 91 57
- OMCT: Marta Gionco / Delphine Reculeau: +41 22 809 49 39