Burundi: Assassination of Mr. Welli Nzitonda, son of Mr. Pierre Claver Mbonimpa

Urgent Appeal
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New information
BUR 001 / 0415 / OBS 036.3
6 November 2015

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) has received new information and requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Burundi.

New information:

The Observatory has been informed of the arrest and execution of Mr. Welli Nzitonda, son of Mr. Pierre Claver Mbonimpa, President of the Association for the Protection of Human Rights and Incarcerated Persons (APRODH) and winner of the 2007 Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders.

According to the information received, on November 6, 2015, around noon, Mr. Welly Nzitonda was arrested in the Mutakura neighbourhood between the 13th and 14th street, by a group of police officers and soldiers in uniform, while he was walking down the street with a friend. After checking his identity card, a police officer slapped him in the face and ordered his friend to leave. He was knocked to the ground and taken away to an unknown place. Mr. Welly Nzitonda was found dead two hours later in a house between the 13th and 14th avenue in the Mutakura neighbourhood. His body was tied up and presented marks of injuries, especially to the head.

On November 2, 2015, Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza, gave a five day ultimatum to the “insurgents” calling them to put down their weapons and ordered his security forces “to use all available methods to implement this order”. The Observatory fears that this ultimatum, that expires tomorrow, will be interpreted as a blank cheque to kill anyone who criticises the government.

The Observatory firmly condemns this assassination and believes that Mr. Welli Nzitonda was targeted because of the human rights activities of his father, Mr. Pierre Claver Mbonimpa.

The Observatory recalls that this is not the first time that Mr. Mbonimpa’s family is targeted by the authorities. On October 9, 2015, Pascal Nshimirimana, the husband of Pierre Claver Mbonimpa’s daughter Ms. Zygène Mbonimpa, who is also a member of APRODH, was assassinated in Bujumbura. Because Pascal Nshimirimana and his wife had been repeatedly receiving threats Ms. Zygène Mbonimpa had fled from Bujumbura.

The Observatory is very concerned about the continuous harassment of the Burundian civil society and urges Burundian authorities to guarantee in all circumstances, the physical and psychological integrity of all human rights defenders in Burundi as well as their family, and to initiate without delaya thorough, independent, effective, rigorous, impartial and transparent investigation..

Background information:

In January 2015, Mr. Pierre Claver Mbonimpa, together with Mr. Pacifique Ninihazwe [1], President of the Forum for Conscience and Development (FO.CO.DE) and Mr. Vital Nshimirimana, President of the Forum for Strengthening the Civil Society (FORSC) in Burundi, launched a civil society campaign against the outgoing president’s bid for another term. The campaign, entitled “Stop the Third Term” was launched after President Nkurunziza announced his intention to run for another term in the June 2015 presidential elections, despite the provisions of the Arusha Agreement and the 2005 Constitution which do not allow a president to seek a third term.

On April 27, 2015, in the morning, the Burundi police arrested Mr. Mbonimpa [2] without a warrant at the Maison de la presse in Bujumbura. He was released the next day by the Burundi Intelligence Service.

On August 3, 2015, around 5:30 pm, an assassination attempt was made against Mr. Pierre Clavier Mbonimpa. A motorcycle approached Mr. Mbonimpa’s car in the Kinama district and shot in his direction at least four times. One of the bullets hit Mr. Mbonimpa in the neck and then lodged in his cheek. Mr Mbonimpa had to leave the country to receive the necessary medical care.

Action requested:

The Observatory urges you to write to the Burundi authorities and ask them to:

i. Guarantee in all circumstances, the physical and psychological integrity of all human rights defenders in Burundi, and the members of their family;

ii. Immediately carry out a thorough, independent, effective, rigorous, impartial, transparent investigation to identify the guilty parties and prosecute them before an independent, competent, impartial court, in compliance with the international and regional instruments for the protection of human rights and to apply the criminal, civil and/or administrative sanctions provided for by law;

iii. Put an end to all forms of harassment against human rights defenders and their families in Burundi;

iv. Comply with the provisions of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 9 December 1998, in particular with:
Article 1 stating that “Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels”;
Article 6(b), according to which, “Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others: As provided for in human rights and other applicable international instruments, freely to publish, impart or disseminate to others views, information and knowledge on all human rights and fundamental freedoms
Article 12.2 stating that “The State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration.

v. More generally, abide by the provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as well as the regional and international instruments on human rights that have been ratified by Burundi.


- H.E. Pierre Nkurunziza, President of the Republic, Presidency of the Republic, Boulevard de l’Uprona, Rohero I, BP 1870, Bujumbura, Burundi. Fax: +257 22 22 74 90
- Mr. Prosper Bazombanza, First Vice President, BP 1870, Bujumbura, Burundi. Fax: +257 22 22 64 24
- Lt General Major Pontien Gaciyubwenge, Minister of National Defence and War Veterans, Fax : +257 22 25 32 15 / 22 25 32 18, Email: mdnac@yahoo.fr
- Me Godeliève Ninahazwe, Minister of National Solidarity, Gender and Human Rights BP 6518, Bujumbura, Burundi. Fax: +257 22 25 82 50
- Commissioner Gabriel Nizigama, Minister of Public Security, BP 1910, Bujumbura, Burundi. Fax: + 257 22 24 53 51, Email: mininter@yahoo.fr
- Permanent Mission of Burundi to the United Nations, rue de Lausanne 44, 1201 Geneva, Switzerland. Fax: +41 22 732 77 34. Email: mission.burundi@bluewin.ch
- Embassy of Burundi in Brussels, Square Marie-Louise 46, 1000 Brussels, Belgium. Fax: +32 2 230 78 83, Email: ambassade.burundi@skynet.be

Please also write to the diplomatic representations of Burundi in your respective countries.

Paris-Geneva, 6 November 2015

Please inform the Observatory of any actions taken, and indicate the code number of this appeal.

The Observatory, a joint FIDH–OMCT programme aims to protect human rights defenders who are victims of violations and to bring them material assistance as quickly as possible.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:
E-mail : Appeals@fidh-omct.org
Tel and fax FIDH: 33 1 43 55 25 18 / 33 1 43 55 18 80
Tel and fax OMCT: + 41 22 809 49 39 / 41 22 809 49 29
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