Bob Rugurika is Released: a First Step for Freedom of Expression in Burundi but the Fight Continues

Press release
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On Wednesday, 18 February 2015, the Bujumbura Mairie court decided to release Bob Rugurika on bail. He is a journalist and Managing Director of the African Public Radio (RPA), one of the most popular and most frequently heard radios in Burundi. After having been convened by the office of the Public Prosecutor, in the Bujumbura Mairie court on 20 January 2015, Bob Rugurika was arrested that same day and detained, first at the Mpimba central prison in Bujumbura, and then at the prison in Muramvya.

Bob Rugurika, a well-known journalist in Burundi, was arrested after the RPA aired several reports of investigations into the assasination of nuns Lucia Pulici, Olga Raschietti and Bernadetta Boggian, on 7 September 2014, at their Kamenge convent, on the northern outskirts of Bujumbura. This triple killing caused upheaval among the Burundi people not only for the horror of the crime itself, but also about the questions raised regarding a 33 year old mentally ill man who was targeted by police as the presumed killer of the three nuns two days after the incident.

The investigations led by Bob Rugurika into the case undermined the thesis put forth by the Burundian authorities, and questioned the responsibility of high-level Burundian officials, particularly by the testimony of a man who claimed he participated in the triple murder as part of a commando unit sent by high-level Burundian authorities. The Burundian Public Ministry thus charged Bob Rugurika with breach of public solidarity (Article 481 of the Penal Code), violating the secrecy of an investigation, (Article 393 of the Penal Code), complicity in the murder of the nuns (art. 38.4 of the Penal Code), and concealment of criminals (Article 389 of the Penal Code).

On 2 February 2015, the first request for release was turned down by the Regional Court of Bujumbura mairie which sat at the Muramvya Prison and decided to keep Bob Rugurika in prison. On the 16 February, the Bujumbura Appeal Court examined the appeal made by Bob Rugurika’s lawyers regarding the decision to maintain the preventive custody and stated that the decision would be made two days later. On the 18 February, the conditional release of Bob Rugurika was confirmed, not without several restrictive conditions: a bail payment of 15 millions Burundi francs (more than 8,000 Euros), prohibited from leaving the country without permission and the obligation to appear before the examining magistrate once a week.

A few months before the general elections, FIDH, which was conducting a fact-finding mission from 11 to 18 February on the pre-electoral situation in the country, was able to visit Bob Rugurika on 14 February while he was still being held at Muramvya prison. The mission called on the Burundi authorities to release him immediately and can also vouch for the very strong popular mobilisation in his favour.

FIDH, the Iteka League, its member organisation in Burundi, and its partner organisations welcome the release of Bob Rugurika. It is a first step in re-establishing his rights and individual freedoms and largely resulted from the vast mobilisation of Burundi civil society, international organisations and institutions, and numerous governments around the world. Our organisations will continue to work so that the charges against Bob Rugurika will be dropped and that an independent, in-depth inquiry into the triple murder of the Italian nuns will be conducted to identify those responsible and to bring them to justice.

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