Death of Jean-Baptiste Nsabimana: FIDH pays tribute to a young and brilliant human rights defender

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(Paris) FIDH expresses its profound sadness following the death, on 6 November 2017, of Jean-Baptiste Nsabimana, a young and fervent Burundian human rights defender. Jean-Baptiste Nsabimana was, at the age of only 31, the executive director of the Ligue Burundaise des Droits de l’Homme ITEKA, the oldest human rights organisation in Burundi and a member of FIDH. ITEKA, FIDH, Burundi and the human rights movement in Africa in general have lost a remarkable human rights defender.

Jean-Baptiste Nsabimana was young. Nevertheless, he was already a very accomplished human rights defender. Doctoral student, lawyer, passionate defender of the Burundian cause and director of ITEKA, he spared no effort in the fight for human rights.

"Jean Baptiste Nsabimana had a remarkable career. His courage, his energy and his professionalism ensured that he had the trust and respect of the men and women who had the opportunity to work with him. He had become one of the driving forces behind the main Burundian human rights organisation, ITEKA. The sudden loss of Jean-Baptiste is a terrible blow for his family and friends, but also for the fight for human rights in Burundi," declared Dimitris Christopoulos, President of the FIDH.

Since the beginning of 2015 and the outbreak of the crisis in Burundi, Jean-Baptiste Nsabimana worked daily to document the crimes committed, which included murders, enforced disappearances, torture, sexual violence, arbitrary arrests and detention. At the risk of his own life. He left Burundi in May 2016 after receiving numerous death threats from the National Intelligence Service (SNR – Service national de renseignement) and members of the army because of his human rights activities. He joined the ITEKA team in exile in order to continue the fight and after six months was appointed the organisation’s executive director.

"Jean-Baptiste Nsabimana was an example of determination and bravery. He tirelessly stood up to the barbarism and horror of the repression meted out by the Burundian regime and spoke out loudly and clearly on behalf of the victims for whom he never stopped fighting and demanding justice," declared Paul Nsapu, FIDH Deputy Secretary General.

Jean-Baptiste Nsabimana had taken part in the 61st Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights where he had voiced a stirring call for an end to the crisis in Burundi. Jean-Baptiste died in a road accident while returning from this mission. Bertrand Hezagira, a close friend of Jean-Baptiste Nsabimana, also died in the accident.

"We shall remember Jean-Baptiste’s commitment and smile, which represented hope for a Burundi and a world more respectful of human rights. The most fitting tribute we can offer him will be to continue selflessly to defend human rights and fight for the return of peace in Burundi," declared Sheila Muwanga, FIDH Vice President.

FIDH and its 184 member organisations deeply regret the death of Jean-Baptiste Nsabimana and extend their sincerest condolences to his family, his wife and children, and to everyone who worked with him in this struggle for justice and peace in Burundi. FIDH has a special thought to his friends and colleagues at ITEKA, and wishes to express its commitment to stand alongside them in continuing the fight for human rights in Burundi. FIDH also extends its sincerest condolences to the family and friends of Bertrand Hezagira.

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