HRW sends open letter to Burundi president over human rights


Human Rights Watch (HRW) has sent an open letter to recently-elected Burundi President Évariste Ndayishimiye, urging the country’s new leader to address a series of ongoing human rights issues.

The letter starts by offering condolences over the recent death of former president Pierre Nkurunziza, who suddenly passed away last month, and goes on to urge Ndayishimiye to “take strong, bold, and concrete steps” to tackle the rights abuses characterised by his predecessor’s regime.

HRW urges Ndayishimiye to address rights abuses

The open letter, which was also published on the HRW website, explains that the rights group is writing to “raise important concerns and share our recommendations on steps your government should take to advance and protect human rights in Burundi.”

After summarising the group’s concerns, the letter urges Ndayishimiye to address human rights issues in Burundi and offers a series of recommended steps for the new president to consider.

“We hope that you will address these issues and make the protection and promotion of human rights a top priority throughout your presidency. We urge you to work to make systemic changes to end the violence and abuse, fueled by widespread impunity, that have plagued the country for far too long, especially since 2015,” the letter explains.

The recommended steps include the following:

  1. Remove from security services posts and other executive branches, officials who have been credibly implicated in serious human rights violations.
  2. Instruct the security forces, the local administrators, and the Imbonerakure to stop extortion, the use of forced labour, beatings, arbitrary arrests, threats, harassment, and collection of contributions for state-led projects.
  3. Direct the Justice Ministry to thoroughly and impartially investigate past grave violations of human rights.
  4. Ensure a thorough and independent investigation into the crimes and abuses committed by the Imbonerakure.
  5. End all political interference in the judicial system, facilitate victims’ access to justice, and ensure progress on emblematic cases.
  6. Fully protect everyone’s rights to freedom of expression, assembly, and association.
  7. Cooperate with and support regional and international human rights mechanisms and treaties, and act to ensure that Burundian law adequately reflects international human rights commitments.
  8. Ratify the Rome Statute.

The letter also praises Ndayishimiye’s commitment “to strengthening dialogue” and “to uphold freedom of expression” although it raises concern about certain comments made by the new leader in relation to government critics, abortion and same-sex marriage. While a common theme throughout the letter is concern over the ruling party’s youth league, Imbonerakure, which is widely reported to have committed serious rights abuses in recent years, as well as the ongoing impunity enjoyed by the police and other security forces.

Featured image: By Mononomic (wikipedia:User:Mononomic) – Image:Hrw_logo.gif, Public Domain,



About Aaron Brooks

Aaron Brooks is a UK journalist who wants to cut out the international agendas in news. Spending his early years in both England and Northern Ireland he saw the difference between reality and media coverage at an early age. After graduating from the University of Chester with a BA in journalism, his travels revealed just how large the gap between news and the real world can be. As Editor-in-Chief at East Africa Monitor, it’s his job to provide a balanced view of what’s going on in the region for English-speaking audiences.