The Republic of Burundi is a constitutional, multiparty republic with an elected government. The 2018 constitution, promulgated in 2019, provides for an executive branch that reports to the president, a bicameral parliament, and an independent judiciary. In May 2020 voters elected President Evariste Ndayishimiye, members of the National Assembly (lower house), and commune councils. The government allowed the main opposition party to participate and campaign. The elections resulted in a peaceful transfer of power but were deeply flawed with widespread reports of human rights abuses perpetrated primarily against members of the main opposition party. Numerous irregularities undermined the credibility of the process in which international observers did not participate.
The National Police of Burundi, which is under the authority of the Ministry of Interior, Community Development and Public Security, is responsible for law enforcement and maintaining order. The armed forces are under the authority of the Ministry of Defense. The National Intelligence Service, which reports directly to the president, has arrest and detention authority. Civilian authorities at times did not maintain effective control over the security forces. There were credible reports that members of the security forces committed numerous abuses.
Significant human rights issues included credible reports of: unlawful or arbitrary killings, including extrajudicial killings by or on behalf of the government; forced disappearance by or on behalf of the government; torture and cases of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment by or on behalf of the government; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary arrest or detention; political prisoners or detainees; politically motivated reprisals against individuals in another country; serious problems with the independence of the judiciary; arbitrary or unlawful interference with privacy; punishment of family members for offenses allegedly committed by an individual; serious restrictions on free expression and media, including violence or threats of violence against journalists and censorship; substantial interference with the freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of association, including overly restrictive laws on the organization, funding, or operation of nongovernmental organizations and civil society organizations; serious and unreasonable restrictions on political participation; serious government corruption; serious government restrictions on or harassment of domestic and international human rights organizations; lack of investigation of and accountability for gender-based violence, including but not limited to domestic and intimate partner violence, sexual violence, child, early and forced marriage and other harmful practices; trafficking in persons; crimes involving violence targeting members of national ethnic minority groups or indigenous peoples; crimes involving violence or threats of violence targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual transgender, queer, or intersex persons; and the existence or use of laws criminalizing consensual same-sex sexual conduct between adults.
The government took steps to identify, investigate, prosecute, and punish officials and members of the ruling party who committed human rights abuses or were involved in corruption. Observers however continued to report intimidation and violence by members of state security forces and their proxies throughout the year. Impunity for government and ruling party officials and for their supporters and proxies remained a problem.
The Imbonerakure, the youth wing of the ruling party, has no official arrest authority, but some members were involved in or responsible for numerous human rights abuses. They routinely assumed the role of state security agents and detained and turned over individuals to the official security services, in some cases after committing human rights abuses. The government investigated and prosecuted some alleged abuses by the Imbonerakure, although it did not do so consistently. Additionally, the rebel group RED-Tabara claimed responsibility for a mortar attack against Bujumbura airport, while unidentified individuals threw grenades at bus stations and other locations that killed and injured several hundred persons during the year. The government pledged to investigate and later blamed exiled opposition leaders, some allegedly linked to RED-Tabara, for the grenade attacks.