a. Arbitrary Deprivation of Life and Other Unlawful or Politically Motivated Killings
There were numerous reports that the government or its agents, including police, the National Intelligence Service (SNR), elements of the Imbonerakure, and, in a few reported cases, military personnel, committed arbitrary or unlawful killings, often against perceived supporters of opposition parties or those who exercised their lawful rights. The nongovernmental organization (NGO) Ligue Iteka, which was banned in 2017, continued operating from outside the country and documented 232 killings by the end of August, as compared with 405 the previous year. Ligue Iteka and other human rights groups differed on the number of killings for which agents of the state or ruling party were likely responsible. The government’s restrictions on UN human rights monitors and NGOs and refusal to allow international human rights bodies authorization to enter the country made it difficult to determine responsibility for arbitrary killings or exact statistics. Security risks for local activists, witnesses, and victims also posed obstacles. Investigations and prosecutions of government officials and members of the ruling party who allegedly committed arbitrary or unlawful killings occurred but were rare. Responsibility for investigating such killings lies with the Burundi National Police, which is under the Ministry of Interior, Community Development, and Public Security, while the Ministry of Justice is responsible for prosecution.
Media reported that bodies bearing signs of violence continued to be found in public places. Local authorities often buried them even if they were unable to identify the deceased and without investigating the cause of death and possible perpetrators, citing health risks to the local population due to a lack of mortuary facilities or ability to preserve the bodies. This made it more difficult for human rights organizations to document and differentiate between cases of human rights abuses and cases constituting ordinary criminal offenses. International human rights groups reported that bodies continued to be discovered regularly in different parts of the country, especially in Cibitoke Province, which borders the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). According to Ligue Iteka, 113 bodies were found between January and August in Cibitoke. In addition, human rights organizations reported numerous cases of disappearances, and it was difficult to determine how many of these were cases of forced disappearance or killings by or on behalf of the government. Some victims were found dead a few days after their disappearances with injuries indicating they had been executed. In its May report, Human Rights Watch noted that SNR agents, police, and the Imbonerakure killed, arbitrarily detained, tortured, and harassed persons belonging to opposition parties or suspected of working with armed rebel groups.
Media reported an increased number of cases of local administrators and the ruling National Council for the Defense of Democracy – Forces for the Defense of Democracy (CNDD-FDD) members being held accountable before the justice system. Furthermore, CNDD-FDD leadership reportedly instructed the Imbonerakure to take responsibility for their own criminal actions.
According to a Ligue Iteka report, on July 25, a group of the Imbonerakure beat and then killed Jean-Marie Mpawenayo, a member of the main opposition party, the National Congress for Freedom (CNL), in Bujumbura. The report indicated that the local representative of CNDD-FDD women’s league accused Mpawenayo of stealing money from her purse. Ligue Iteka sources reported that the Imbonerakure attempted to pressure Mpawenayo to join the CNDD-FDD to no avail, which might have triggered the clashes that led to his killing.
A Ngozi court convicted three individuals on August 4, including Musafiri Niyonkuru, former head of the Imbonerakure in Ngozi Province, to life in prison for the murder of Bernard Nsabimana, a Ngozi resident. The three perpetrators were also ordered to pay 30 million Burundian francs ($14,900) in compensation to the victim’s family. Human rights activists welcomed the decision to punish an official widely considered “untouchable” like Musafiri, a powerful Imbonerakure figure implicated in many cases of human rights abuse in Ngozi Province, including enforced disappearances of opposition party members.
There were numerous reports that individuals were victims of politically motivated disappearances after they were detained by elements of the security forces or after kidnappings where the identities of the perpetrators were not clear. Lack of access to reliable reporting, however, caused in part by restraints on civil society, limited the ability of human rights organizations and researchers to gather complete data.
The NGOs Ligue Iteka, Forum for Awareness and Development (FOCODE), and SOS Torture Burundi regularly reported disappearances, which were sometimes later determined to be killings when victims’ bodies were discovered. A victim’s last sighting was often at the time of abduction by the Imbonerakure, police, military, or the SNR. NGOs and media reported that persons suspected of collaborating with armed rebel groups, members of the CNL, and former members of the army were victims of enforced disappearances. FOCODE reported that other victims included returning refugees and former prisoners. As of August 30, Ligue Iteka documented 32 disappearances, compared with 56 in the previous year. It linked one disappearance to the Imbonerakure, two to police, 25 to the SNR, two to the military, one to a local official, and one to unidentified actors. FOCODE reported that statistics likely considerably underreport the true number of disappearances, as many victims’ families were either unaware of the victim’s disappearance or may have remained silent due to fear of reprisal.
According to Human Rights Watch, the SNR, security forces, and the Imbonerakure disappeared real or perceived political opponents and persons suspected of having ties with Burundian rebels in the neighboring DRC. In addition, media reported cases of the Imbonerakure and other members of the ruling party becoming victims of human rights abuses for refusing to participate in the party’s activities. According to a March report by the Burundi Human Rights Initiative (BHRI), CNL members were the primary victims of disappearances, usually subject to abduction by SNR agents or police, rather than being arrested in accordance with the law. The BHRI reported that families gave up searching after a few weeks and organized burials for their disappeared relatives. Some of the missing persons reappeared, while others were found in prisons, awaiting trial. The BHRI reported that no information existed regarding security officials being prosecuted for their role in kidnappings.
On February 9, Ligue Iteka reported that SNR officials kidnapped six Imbonerakure in Kirundo Province after they refused to participate in paramilitary training. As of August, their whereabouts remained unknown.
In a press conference on April 28, police spokesman Pierre Nkurikiye called on relatives to alert police in case of alleged disappearances and assured that police would initiate investigations. On May 25, police presented to the press eight individuals arrested for kidnapping and for demanding ransom. Nkurikiye said the accused, three police officers, one member of the military, and four civilians, were involved in many cases of extortion, kidnapping, and abuse of power. Observers opined that the press conference was an attempt to rebut the claims by human rights organizations that the government had disappeared these eight individuals.
On July 13, Ligue Iteka reported that Salvator Horihoze, head of the SNR in Bujumbura Province, and Imbonerakure member Marius Bayisabe arrested Jean Paul Ndabacekure, a CNL member and resident of Mubimbi commune in Bujumbura Province. According to the report, Ndabacekure’s family searched in known SNR and police detention facilities but was unable to locate him. As of August, his whereabouts remained unknown.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and Other Related Abuses
The constitution and law prohibit cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, but there were numerous reports that government officials employed these practices. NGOs reported cases of torture committed by security services or members of the Imbonerakure. As of August 31, Ligue Iteka reported 38 such cases, down from 57 the previous year, attributing 33 to members of the Imbonerakure, three to police, and two to the SNR. Media reported throughout the year that Imbonerakure members arrested, threatened, beat, tortured, or inflicted a combination of the former on CNL members. There were also reports that government officials in prisons physically abused prisoners. Human rights organizations reported numerous cases of torture against detainees at SNR headquarters in Bujumbura, as well as in unofficial detention centers in Bujumbura and other provinces. The BHRI reported that suspected opponents, mostly CNL members, were tortured in SNR offices and held incommunicado for periods ranging from a few days to several months. According to the BHRI, the SNR tortured their victims, mostly accused of collaborating with armed rebel groups, to extract confessions or get other information.
In December 2021, the UN Committee Against Torture deplored authorities’ lack of cooperation in investigating individual complaints of abuses. The committee reported that authorities had not opened investigations into any cases referred to the committee since 2017.
There were some reports of investigations and prosecutions for serious abuses of human rights, although limited enforcement meant impunity in the security forces, including the Imbonerakure, the SNR, police, and military, remained a problem. Media reported increased cases of state agents and members of the ruling party being arrested, detained, and sometimes convicted for acts related to human rights abuses. Furthermore, the leadership of the CNDD-FDD reportedly instructed the Imbonerakure to take responsibility for their own criminal actions. Media and human rights groups reported, however, that many state agents arrested were later released and that the outcomes of proceedings against those who remained in detention were uncertain. Factors contributing to impunity included the ruling party’s reliance on the Imbonerakure, the lack of an independent judiciary, and reprisals against individuals reporting abuses. There were no sufficient mechanisms to investigate human rights abuses committed by security forces. Military members deployed to international peacekeeping missions received mandatory human rights training.
Media reported that on April 4, the Imbonerakure tortured Stephanie Minani and her daughter Irakoze. The Imbonerakure accused Irakoze of stealing 330,000 Burundian francs ($1,650) and reportedly beat her until she confessed to having taken the stolen money to her mother. The Imbonerakure then tortured Stephanie Minani by tying her arms behind her back, hitting her, throwing her to the floor, and sexually assaulting her. Stephanie was taken to the hospital in critical condition. After pressure from the prosecutor’s office, the Imbonerakure agreed to pay for medical expenses but were not criminally charged.
There were reports that members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) community were threatened, beaten, and arrested by local administrators and other citizens with the support of security forces (see section 6, Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity).
Prison and Detention Center Conditions
Prison conditions were harsh and life threatening due to gross overcrowding, food shortages, physical abuse, and inadequate sanitary conditions. There were reports of lack of adequate medical treatment and prolonged solitary confinement in prisons and detention centers. Conditions in detention centers managed by the SNR and in communal jails managed by police generally were worse than in prisons. Human Rights Watch and several other organizations also continued to report that the SNR maintained clandestine detention facilities to which no independent monitors were granted access.
Abusive Physical Conditions: Gross overcrowding was a severe problem in eight of 11 prisons. The Ministry of Justice’s Office of Penitentiary Affairs reported that, as of August 23, there were 12,754 inmates, including 6,913 pretrial detainees, held in 11 prisons and two juvenile rehabilitation facilities, the majority of which were built before 1965, with a designed capacity to accommodate 4,294 inmates. The most crowded prisons were Muramvya (30 miles from Bujumbura), where the inmate population was at 827 percent of designed capacity, and Mpimba in Bujumbura, which was at 567 percent of designed capacity. Of the 12,754 inmates, 582 were women and 164 were juveniles. Of the 164 juveniles, 125 were convicted and 39 were pretrial detainees, in the two juvenile rehabilitation facilities. There is a prison for women in Ngozi, although women were incarcerated in other prisons, as well. Authorities commonly held pretrial detainees with convicted prisoners.
The Office of Penitentiary Affairs reported no deaths during the year, although this was contradicted by media and NGO reports. No information was available on the number of persons held in communal jails operated by police or in clandestine detention centers managed by the SNR.
Prisons did not have adequate sanitation systems (toilets and bathing facilities), drinking water, ventilation, and lighting, and these conditions were especially acute in the Muramvya and Mpimba prisons. Prisons and detention centers did not have accommodations for persons with disabilities.
According to government officials and international human rights observers, many prisoners suffered from intestinal illnesses and malaria. Available medical care was primarily limited to analgesics and other basic medications. In June, the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Justice signed an agreement to create and maintain health centers at prisons around the country; however, health services at these centers were mostly limited to dispensing medications.
Each prison was required to employ at least one qualified nurse and received at least one weekly visit by a doctor, but prisoners did not always receive prompt access to medical care. Inmates with serious medical conditions were sent to local hospitals. There were reports of shortages of medicines in prison clinics. The NGO Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture (ACAT-Burundi), which was banned in 2017 reported that prisoners, particularly those held on politically motivated charges, had difficulty obtaining permission to seek treatment in hospitals outside the prisons, and those who did were discharged before they had fully recovered.
There was no official information regarding cases of COVID-19 in prisons. Authorities took some measures to prevent the spread of the virus, including allowing the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to provide soap and hygiene-sensitization sessions in the country’s 11 prisons and two youth detention centers.
Each inmate received daily rations of approximately 12 ounces of cassava, 12 ounces of beans, and, on some days, oil and salt. Authorities expected family and friends to provide any additional food as well as other expenses such as clothing, toiletries, and some costs associated with medical care. Economic stresses and skyrocketing prices in staple goods meant that families were often unable to provide the same food supplements as in recent years. ACAT-Burundi and other organizations reported recurring food shortages in prisons, especially in Rumonge and Mpimba prisons in Bujumbura. Although prison malnutrition was a concern, rates of malnutrition among prisoners were lower than among the country’s population. Media and several other organizations also reported that prisoner-run bodies, which mainly included members of the ruling party, harassed, tortured, and in some instances killed prisoners held on politically motivated charges with the support or under the orders of the prisons’ administration, contradicting prison authorities’ reports of no deaths during the year.
Administration: Prison authorities allowed prisoners to submit complaints to judicial authorities without censorship, but authorities rarely investigated the complaints. Anonymous complaints passed along to authorities by independent monitors were sometimes addressed. There were reports of mistreatment of prisoners, such as physical abuse and long stays in solitary confinement, but no record that any abusers were held to account or punished. During the year, prison authorities permitted visitors in all prisons, which had been suspended since 2020 in response to COVID-19.
Independent Monitoring: The government permitted monitoring by some independent nongovernmental observers.
The government permitted visits requested by the ICRC, the African Union, and the Independent National Commission on Human Rights (CNIDH). Monitors visited prisons, communal jails, and known SNR detention centers regularly. Monitoring groups had complete and unhindered access to prisoners held in all official detention facilities but were unable to access clandestine SNR detention sites.
Improvements: In December 2021, President Ndayishimiye approved a program involving possible conditional release of convicted inmates who demonstrated good behavior and/or paid bail, as in the case of pretrial detainees. The program also considered detainees not accused of murder or sexual violence as possible candidates for release pending their trials. Some human rights organizations lauded the measure fr its aim of addressing both overcrowding and long pretrial detention periods. According to ACAT-Burundi, authorities implemented President Ndayishimiye’s program to release pretrial detainees in Mpimba, Ngozi, Ruyigi and Muramvya prisons as of October. ACAT-Burundi, however, criticized the measure for excluding prisoners accused of such crimes as threatening state security and tarnishing the image of the country. Eight of the 11 prisons, including the women’s detention facility, benefitted by a steam-based disinfection campaign designed to reduce both germs and insects. Telephone systems were also installed in all 11 prisons to supplement in-person visits.
There were reports of multiple rehabilitation projects in various prisons, including sanitation facility, kitchen, and water distribution upgrades in Mpimba and Ruyigi prisons. Gitega prison was fully reconstructed following the fire that erupted there in December 2021.
d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention
The constitution and law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention and provide for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his or her arrest and detention, but the government did not observe these requirements.
Arrest Procedures and Treatment of Detainees
Arrests require warrants issued by a presiding magistrate, although police may arrest a person without a warrant by notifying a police supervisor in advance. Police have seven days to finish an investigation and present evidence before a magistrate but may request a seven-day extension for additional investigation. Police rarely respected these provisions.
According to the law, a magistrate must either order the release of suspects or confirm the evidence is sufficient for continued detention, initially for 14 days, and then for an additional seven days if required to prepare a case for trial. Magistrates routinely failed to convene preliminary hearings, often citing heavy case backlogs or improper documentation by police. Authorities acknowledged that the legal system struggled to process cases in a timely fashion and that lengthy pretrial detentions were common.
Lack of transportation for suspects, police, and magistrates was a frequently cited reason for the failure to convene preliminary hearings. This remained a problem in the eight provinces without prisons, where lack of transport prevented the transfer of suspects from the site of detention to the provincial court with jurisdiction over their cases.
Judges may release suspects on bail but rarely did so. They often released suspects on their own recognizance, however. Suspects may hire lawyers at their own expense in criminal cases. The law does not require legal representation and the government did not provide attorneys for those unable to afford one. Detainees who were unable to pay for a lawyer were rarely able to access legal counsel.
Some suspects were detained incommunicado. The SNR denied lawyers access to detainees held at its headquarters in Bujumbura, and there was no known access to the SNR’s clandestine detention facilities. Prisons have solitary confinement facilities, and detainees were sometimes held in solitary confinement for long periods.
Arbitrary Arrest: The law provides for a token monetary fine and imprisonment for 15 days to one year for any member of the security forces found guilty of involvement in an arbitrary arrest. There were no reports that this law was applied.
Human rights groups reported numerous arbitrary arrests and detentions, including some involving the Imbonerakure. As of August 31, Ligue Iteka documented 221 arbitrary arrests, a decrease from 507 in the previous year, including 43 by the Imbonerakure, 153 by police, four by local administration officials, 20 by the SNR, and one by unidentified persons. Ligue Iteka reported that authorities targeted members of the CNL and their supporters for their involvement in legitimate political activities. Authorities often accused CNL members of organizing or participating in “unauthorized activities,” including the party’s anniversary celebration and the opening of new offices. Authorities arrested several opposition party members after they fought with members of the Imbonerakure, who attempted to pressure them into joining CNDD-FDD. According to media reports, authorities arrested many individuals under accusations of their collaboration with or support for armed rebel groups, often on the sole basis of political affiliation or ethnic background. Media also reported increasing arrests of street children.
Pretrial Detention: Prolonged pretrial detention remained a serious problem. By law authorities may not hold a person longer than 14 days without charge. As of August, however, 54.2 percent of inmates in prisons and detention centers were pretrial detainees, according to the Ministry of Justice’s Office of Penitentiary Affairs. Authorities held some suspects without formal charges. According to the Office of Penitentiary Affairs, the average time in pretrial detention was approximately one year, but some individuals remained in pretrial detention for nearly five years. In some cases, the length of detention equaled or exceeded the sentence for the alleged crime. Inefficiency and corruption among police, prosecutors, and judicial officials contributed to the problem. For example, authorities deprived many persons of their legal right to be released on their own recognizance because public prosecutors failed to open case files or the files were lost. Others remained incarcerated without proper arrest warrants, either because police failed to complete the initial investigation and transfer the case to the appropriate magistrate or because the magistrate failed to convene the required hearing to rule on the charges.
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
The constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary; but the government generally did not respect judicial independence or impartiality. Serious irregularities undermined the fairness and credibility of trials, and in some instances, the outcomes of trials appeared predetermined by the government and powerful members of the ruling party. There were reports of authorities who bribed or influenced members of the judiciary to drop investigations and prosecutions. Media reported irregularities in criminal procedures, including warrantless arrests of political opponents and illegal extensions of pretrial detentions. There were allegations that the Attorney General’s Office ignored calls to investigate senior figures within the security services and national police. Prosecutors and members of the security services sometimes ignored court orders for the release of detainees after judges had determined there were no legal grounds for holding them.
The law provides for the right to a fair and public trial, but the judiciary generally did not enforce this right. By law defendants are presumed innocent. Panels of judges conduct all trials in public. Defendants have the right to prompt and detailed information on the charges and free language interpretation, if needed, from the moment of being charged throughout the entirety of the appeals process, if necessary, although these rights were rarely respected. Defendants have the right to a fair trial without undue delay and to adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense, although this occasionally occurred. Defendants have a right to counsel but not at the government’s expense, even in cases involving serious criminal charges. Few defendants had legal representation because few could afford the services of a lawyer. Some local and international NGOs provided legal assistance to defendants. Defendants have the right not to be compelled to testify or confess guilt, although there were reports that some detainees experienced torture designed to coerce testimonies. Judges reportedly used confessions obtained under torture as a basis for convicting defendants. Human Rights Watch and international media reported a growing number of cases of expedited trials that raised concerns concerning their fairness, since the defendants did not have time to prepare. Such practices appeared to be particularly common in cases involving opposition party members.
All defendants, except those in military courts, have the right to appeal their cases to the Supreme Court. The government does not provide military defendants with attorneys to assist in their defense, although NGOs provided some defendants with attorneys in cases involving serious charges. Military trials generally were open to the public but could be closed for reasons of national security or in cases where publicity might harm the victim or a third party, such as in cases of rape or child abuse. Defendants in military courts are entitled to only one appeal.
While many of the aforementioned rights were frequently not granted, no rights were systematically denied to persons from specific groups. The inefficiency of the court system extended the appeals process for long periods, in many cases for more than a year. The CNIDH, in collaboration with the Ministry of Justice and the UN Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Central Africa, organized mobile courts in Mpimba, Gitega, Ngozi, Rutana, Rumonge, and Ruyigi. These hearings were designed to remedy the problem of judicial delays and allowed for the processing of 313 cases between May and August 2021.
On May 10, a Ngozi court convicted 16 CNL members to 15 years in prison on charges of the attempted murder of Imbonerakure members following clashes between the two groups on April 25. At least seven of the convicted CNL members were arrested and imprisoned, while the remaining members reportedly fled the province or country. Media reported that those arrested and imprisoned were not allowed to appear in court or given the chance to mount a legal defense, a contravention of the country’s criminal procedures. The confrontation between the parties occurred after Imbonerakure members attempted to pressure the CNL members to join the ruling party. According to reports, the CNL members’ refusal to join the ruling party led the Imbonerakure to begin verbally and physically assaulting the CNL party, resulting in violence on both sides. The Imbonerakure subsequently held at least two CNL members hostage for ransom and verbally and physically abused the village chief, a CNL member, when he attempted to intervene. When some of the CNL members fled from Ruyumbu, the Imbonerakure and local authorities reportedly detained spouses and relatives of the missing members for up to a week and coerced other CNL members in the neighborhood to give information regarding the fugitives’ whereabouts (see also section 1.f.). Human rights organizations criticized the proceedings, noting a lack of fair trial, and criticized the Public Prosecutor’s Office for not taking more time to investigate the incident and for appearing to side with the ruling party by failing to prosecute the Imbonerakure alongside the CNL members.
Political Prisoners and Detainees
No verifiable statistics were available on the number of political prisoners or detainees; estimates by human rights groups ranged in the hundreds. The government denied incarcerating persons for political reasons, citing instead acts against state security, participation in a rebellion, or inciting insurrection. Human rights groups stated that these charges were often a pretext for repressing human rights defenders and members of opposition parties. Throughout the year, there were regular arrests and detentions of members of opposition parties, mainly from CNL, but also from other parties such as Sahwanya-FRODEBU. Others, mainly young men, were arrested or detained under suspicion of having cooperated with armed rebel groups. In many cases, political prisoners remained in prolonged pretrial detention, while other prisoners were released without explanation or, more frequently, after paying a monetary fine. The government permitted visits requested by the ICRC and the CNIDH, including to detainees who human rights groups considered to be political prisoners. Monitors visited known prisons, communal jails, and known SNR detention centers regularly. Monitoring groups had complete and unhindered access to prisoners held in known detention facilities but were unable to access clandestine SNR detention sites.
On August 28, the SNR arrested activist Floriane Irangabiye and accused her of espionage and collaboration with armed rebel groups. According to media sources, Irangabiye traveled to Burundi from her home in Rwanda for a family visit and was arrested a few days later. Irangabiye was known to partner with Burundian journalists in exile and was actively involved in debates organized by media outlets operating from outside the country.
Lawyer Tony Germain Nkina appealed his 2021 conviction for threatening state security. The Supreme Court overturned his conviction on December 7 and instructed the Ngozi Court of Appeals to review his case. The Ngozi Court of Appeals acquitted him on all charges on December 20. Nkina was released from detention on December 27 after spending more than two years in prison. He was convicted in June 2021 and sentenced to five years in prison and a fine of one million Burundian francs ($497). Nkina was charged with threatening state security by collaborating with rebel groups conducting attacks in Kabarore Commune, Kayanza Province, where he was visiting a client. Observers criticized the proceedings due to a lack of evidence to support the government’s case. International human rights organizations also believed that Nkina was arrested for his prior work as a representative of the Association for the Protection of Human Rights and Detained Persons, which was one of the leading human rights groups in the country until 2015.
The government attempted to intimidate or exact reprisal against members of diaspora populations by exerting bilateral pressure on another county.
Bilateral pressure: There were reports that for politically motivated purposes, the government attempted to exert bilateral pressure on another country aimed at having it take adverse action against specific individuals. As a condition of normalizing bilateral relations with Rwanda, authorities continued to demand the extradition of individuals alleged to be responsible for the 2015 attempted coup and who sought refuge in Rwanda that same year.
Civil Judicial Procedures and Remedies
Individuals and organizations may seek civil remedies for human rights abuses and may appeal decisions to an international or regional court.
In 2015, the East African Civil Society Organizations’ Forum, which includes several Burundian organizations in exile, filed a complaint seeking to invalidate President Nkurunziza’s third term from 2015 to 2020. In a decision dated November 2021 and made public in September, the East African Court of Justice condemned the country’s constitutional court for authorizing an “illegal mandate to President Nkurunziza.”
f. Arbitrary or Unlawful Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence
The constitution and law provide for the right to privacy and require search warrants, but there were reports that the government failed to respect these prohibitions. The law provides for warrantless searches when security services suspect acts of terrorism, fraud, trafficking in persons, illegal possession of weapons, trafficking in or consumption of drugs, or “infractions of a sexual nature.” The law requires that security services provide advance notice of warrantless searches to prosecutorial officials but does not require approval. Human rights groups raised concerns that the breadth of exceptions to the warrant requirement and the lack of protections provided in the law created risks of abuse. They also noted that by law, warrants may be issued by a prosecutorial official without reference to a judicial authority, thereby limiting judicial oversight of decisions by police and prosecutors.
Police, SNR agents, and Imbonerakure members – sometimes acting as mixed security committees – set up roadblocks and conducted general vehicle inspections and searches. Members of the security forces also sought bribes in many instances, either during searches or in lieu of a search. They conducted search-and-seizure operations throughout the year without judicial or other appropriate authorization. The media outlet Radio Publique Africaine reported that its websites and social media platforms were blocked and inaccessible to the public in the country, unless using a virtual private network.
Media and human rights organizations reported that police arrested and threatened family members of suspects they were unable to find for arrest.
g. Conflict-related Abuses
The UN Group of Experts reported in July that members of the Imbonerakure and the military conducted military operations in South Kivu Province in the DRC beginning in December 2021, assisted by Congolese armed groups acting as scouts or joining operations against the Burundian rebel group RED-Tabara. The BHRI and local media reported that members of the Imbonerakure, the military, or local allied Congolese armed groups engaged in abuses against Congolese civilians between December 2021 and July including extrajudicial killings, looting, extortion, and forced labor (see also the country report on the Democratic Republic of the Congo).
According to the Conduct in UN Field Missions online portal, there were 11 open allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse by the country’s peacekeepers deployed to the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA). Two of the pending allegations were reported during the year, six were reported in 2021, one in 2019, one in 2016, and one in 2015. Of the 11 allegations, six concerned possible exploitative relationships with adults (between 2014 and 2019), four concerned alleged instances of child rape (between 2015 and 2019), and one involved both children and adults (in 2015). Two cases reported in the 2015-16 timeframe were substantiated in 2017. As of August, the government had not announced whether it had taken any measures to investigate or address the 11 cases that remained open and had also not yet reported actions taken regarding the substantiated 2017 allegation of the rape of a child, perpetrated in 2015 by a police officer deployed to MINUSCA.