Ban of the ITEKA League: Another blow to Burundian civil society

Press release
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(Paris, Geneva) The decision to ban the ITEKA League, an FIDH member organisation, from the list of NGOs authorized to work in Burundi is absurd and disastrous, declared the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (FIDH-OMCT). The Observatory condemns this new blow to Burundian civil society and urges the authorities to end their endless harassment campaign and suppression of human rights defenders.

On 3 January 2017, Burundian authorities announced their decision to ban the ITEKA League from the list of NGOs authorized to operate in the country on December 21, 2016. According to the Minister of the Interior, Pascal Barandagiye, ITEKA had “tarnished the image of the country and sought to divide the Burundian society.”

This is an obvious retaliation. On the contrary, by banning the oldest human rights defense organization from Burundi, the image of the country is tarnished, the same way it is when it draws the attention of the international community to the abuses that are being committed there,”, stated Dimitris Christopoulos, FIDH President.

By completely silencing highly reputable NGOs for their human rights activities, the Burundian Government is trying to further isolate the people of Burundi, who continue to suffer the worst violations, added Gerald Staberock, Secretary General of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT).

The decision to ban ITEKA was taken after the 15 November 2016 publication of a joint ITEKA-FIDH report entitled Repression and Genocidal Dynamics in Burundi which denounced the widespread violations of human rights that have been recorded in the country since the beginning of the crisis in April 2015. FIDH together with ITEKA had also launched a campaign called #StopThisMovie to increase public awareness of the crisis and the risk of genocide in Burundi. In December 2016, ITEKA published several investigative reports on the prosecution of the most serious crimes committed in Burundi: murders, abductions, forced disappearances, torture, rape, and large-scale detentions; accusing Burundi’s highest state authorities for these violations.

The ITEKA League had already been provisionally suspended since 24 October 2016 for “disturbing public order and State security.” Four other organisations were also affected: SOS-Torture/Burundi, that works in the field with OMCT, the Coalition de la société civile pour le monitoring électorale (Civil society coalition for monitoring the elections - COSOME), the Coalition burundaise pour la CPI (Burundian Coalition for the ICC - CB-CPI) and the Union Burundaise des Journalistes (Burundi Journalists Union - UBJ). During this same time period, the following five organisations were permanently banned from the list of authorized NGOs: the Forum pour le Renforcement de la Société Civile (FORSC), the Forum pour la Conscience et le Développement (FOCODE), Christians Against Torture (ACAT), Burundian Association for the Protection of Human Rights of Prisoners and Detainees (APRODH) and the Réseau des citoyens probes (Network of concerned citizens- RCP).

The decision to ban ITEKA was taken when the National Assembly had adopted, on the 28th and 23rd of December 2016, two draft laws that established tighter control of the actions of domestic and international NGOs. The first law requires that local NGOs must obtain permission from the Minister of the Interior for any and all activities and channel all international funding through the central bank. The second law requires foreign NGOs to abide by the priorities defined by the Government of Burundi.

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