Burundi: The Fighting Must Be Stopped and Civilian Safety Guaranteed

Press release
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FIDH and the ITEKA League are alarmed about the turn of events in Burundi. Forces supporting President Pierre Nkurunziza are in armed battle with the putschists in Bujumbura. Our organisations exhort the protagonists to stop the fighting and call upon the United Nations and the African Union to take the necessary measures to guarantee the safety of the civilian population.

On 13 May 2015, Godefroid Niyombaré, the former Chief of Staff and former Director of the Intelligence Services (SNR) announced on Isanganiro, a private radio station, that the president of Burundi, Pierre Nkurunziza, had been overthrown and the government was dissolved, on the grounds that it was not acceptable for the outgoing president to bid for a third term. Godefroid Niyombaré also announced the creation of a “temporary” committee to re-establish national harmony and “initiate a new process for managing the country and the national institutions and the resumption of the electoral process”. Later in the day he ordered the closing of the airport and border crossings, while Pierre Nkurunziza was out of the country.

At the same time, the Office of the President of Burundi announced that the coup attempt led by Godefroid Niyombaré had been thwarted, that the situation was under the control of the Office of the President, and that the coup leaders would be sought by the defence and security forces and taken to court.

While confusion is reigning in Bujumbura, information received today signals that fightings between the loyalist forces and the putschists are still ongoing, especially near Burundi National Radio and Television(Radio Télévision nationale du Burundi RTNB). Furthermore, since yesterday, the main media in Burundi have been targeted. Just when Africa Public Radio (Radio publique africaine – RPA) had been able to start broadcasting again, its offices were set on fire and ransacked, as were the premises of Radio Renaissance, Bonesha FM and even Rema FM, which is known to support the government. Radio Isanganiro is no longer on the air either. At the time of this press release, RTNB was the only one of the leading media that was still broadcasting.

 “The political and security situation in Burundi has been growing steadily worse during the last few weeks. The deadlock in the political discussions was followed by the brutal repression of demonstrations. Hundreds of people have been arrested and arbitrarily detained, human rights defenders and journalists are faced with serious obstacles and close to 50,000 people have fled to neighbouring countries”, declared our organisations.The current violent confrontations show how the international community needs to give priority to the safety of civilians and upgrade its efforts to provide protection, added our organisations, who in their latest report made specific recommendations to prevent the escalation of violence in Burundi.

FIDH and the ITEKA League remind those persons who would be responsible for serious human rights violations that they can be held accountable for their actions before relevant international criminal courts. Our organisations refer to the declaration made on this subject by the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) stating that “Any person who incites or engages in acts of mass violence including by ordering, requesting, encouraging or contributing in any other manner to the commission of crimes within ICC’s jurisdiction is liable to prosecution before the Court”.

Lastly, FIDH and the ITEKA League point out that the enactments of the African Union, particularly its Constitutive Act, the Protocol relating to the establishment of the Peace and Security Council, and the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance condemn coups d’état and other forms of unconstitutional changes of government. Our organisations urge all parties to comply with the provisions of these instruments.

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