Joint press release by the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders in Africa and the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information regarding the situation of human rights defenders and freedom of expression and assembly in Burundi

    The Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders in Africa, Ms. Reine Alapini-Gansou, and the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information, Ms. Faith Pansy Tlakula, are deeply concerned about the deteriorating human rights situation, in addition to an escalation of violence in Burundi since the announcement of the candidacy of President Pierre Nkurunziza, on Saturday 25 April 2015 in Bujumbura, for the upcoming presidential elections.

    The Special Rapporteurs are concerned that, as a result of the violence, it has been reported that thousands of Burundians have fled to Rwanda, during the run-up to the election period. Moreover, reports have been received of harassment of journalists and news outlets in Burundi, with allegations of the suspension of the transmission of at least three radio stations and mobile access to social media by telecommunications companies.

    The Special Rapporteurs condemn all forms of violence, intimidation or harassment perpetrated against human rights defenders and call upon the Government of the Republic of Burundi to make every possible effort to protect the integrity of all civil society actors in Burundi.

    Information received at the office of the Special Rapporteur indicates the arrest and detention of Mr. Pierre Claver Mbonimpa, Chairperson of the Association for the Protection of Human Rights and Detained Persons (APRODH), for more than 24 hours on Monday 27 April 2015 in Bujumbura.

    The Special Rapporteurs condemn the intimidation and other forms of harassment perpetrated against Mr. Pierre Claver Mbonimpa, Mr. Pacifique Nininahazwe, the Chairperson of the Forum for Conscience and Development (FOCODE), Mr. Vital Nshimirimana, the Delegate-General of the Forum for Strengthening Civil Society (FORSC), as well as other human rights defenders in Burundi.

    The Special Rapporteurs urge the Government of Burundi to respect and guarantee the freedom of opinion, of expression, of assembly and of peaceful demonstration, as well as the civil and political rights of all the citizens during this electoral period, in conformity with the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

    Furthermore, the Special Rapporteur calls on the African Union, and the international community at large, to lend their support to the peaceful outcome of the current electoral process in Burundi.

    The Special Rapporteurs wish to underscore their commitments, and that of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, to work with the authorities in Burundi to ensure the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms in Burundi.

    The Special Rapporteurs would like to remind the Republic of Burundi of its obligations under the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, the Grand Bay Declaration and the Kigali Declaration.

    Moreover, the Special Rapporteurs wish to reiterate the provisions of the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression in Africa (the Declaration on Freedom of Expression), adopted by the Commission in 2002 to supplement the provisions of Article 9 of the African Charter. Specifically, Principles I (1) and II of the Declaration on Freedom of Expression respectively state that “freedom of expression and information…is a fundamental and inalienable human right and an indispensable component of democracy” and “any restrictions on freedom of expression shall be provided by law, serve a legitimate interest and be necessary in a democratic society.”

    Finally, the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders in Africa and the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information call upon the Government of the Republic of Burundi to collaborate with all civil society stakeholders towards ensuring respect for human rights throughout the country.

     Banjul, 01 May 2015

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      Date: 02 May 2015

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