Burundi: Germain Rukuki released after four years of arbitrary detention

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Paris-Geneva, 7 July 2021 - Human rights defender Germain Rukuki, arbitrarily detained in Burundi since July 2017, has been released. The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (FIDH-OMCT) welcomes this release and calls for the release of all human rights defenders still imprisoned in the country.

In the afternoon of June 30, 2021, Germain Rukuki, an employee of the Association of Catholic Jurists of Burundi (AJCB), president of Njabutsa Tujane [1], a former employee of Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture Burundi (ACAT-Burundi), regained his freedom after spending four years behind bars in Ngozi prison.

The release comes after the Ntahangwa Court of Appeal decided on June 21, 2021, to reduce Mr. Rukuki’s sentence from 32 years to one year in prison with a fine of 50,000 Burundian francs (about 21 euros) in his second appeal.

The Observatory recalls that on June 30, 2020, the Supreme Court of Burundi overturned the July 17, 2019 ruling of the Ntahangwa Court of Appeal sentencing Germain Rukuki to 32 years in prison for "insurrectionary movement," "undermining the internal security of the state" (Article 601 of the Penal Code), and "rebellion" (Articles 372 and 374 of the Penal Code), opening the way for a new trial. This second appeal hearing took place eight months later, on March 24, 2021, in Ngozi prison, and the verdict was made public on June 21, 2021.

Germain Rukuki had been arbitrarily detained since July 2017 for collaborating with ACAT-Burundi, an organization that documents torture and other crimes committed in the country. Throughout the proceedings, numerous irregularities and flagrant violations of the guarantees provided by the Burundian Code of Criminal Procedure were noted in the management of his case by the judicial authorities.

The Observatory welcomes the release of Germain Rukuki but recalls that he should never have been detained in the first place, as his detention was arbitrary in that it was only intended to punish him for his legitimate human rights activities. The Observatory calls on the Burundian authorities to take all necessary measures to guarantee the physical integrity and psychological well-being of Germain Rukuki, and to put an end to all forms of harassment, including at the judicial level, against him. More broadly, the Observatory urges the Burundian authorities to release all human rights defenders arbitrarily detained in the country.

The Observatory, a partnership between FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), aims to protect human rights defenders who are victims of violations and to provide them with the most concrete assistance possible. FIDH and OMCT are members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union mechanism for human rights defenders implemented by international civil society.

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