“The most shocking is the apparent indifference of authorities”

Carina Tertsakian, the head of Burundi program at Human Rights Watch reacts to the abduction of our colleague and estimates that the police should do their job.

Carina Tertsakian

Carina Tertsakian

What is your analysis two weeks after the abduction of Jean Bigirimana?

Human Rights Watch is deeply concerned about the disappearance of this young journalist, Jean Bigirimana. It’s been two weeks without any news of him. What became of him? Why this silence? If they accuse him of something, they should bring him to justice. If he is not guilty, they should release him immediately. We are particularly concerned because this is not the first disappearance observed in Burundi. Many other people disappeared without a trace. Some are probably dead, but since all this happens in secret, there is no confirmation. This is most painful for both their families and friends. For example, since December 2015, no news of Marie- Claudette Kwizera, the treasurer of the human rights association “ligue Iteka” and other cases that followed thereafter. The most shocking is the absence of reactions, the apparent indifference on the part of authorities.

What do you think about the police behavior?

The police denied any involvement in this case and said that Jean is not in the hands of the police. That may be true, but where is he then? Some sources reveal he may have been abducted by the intelligence service. Have the police carried out investigations? It is their duty to do so and follow carefully all the tracks until they find Jean Bigirimana. A simple denial is not enough. The police should do their work and put an end to this silence and anxiety.

What is your view on the tweets of Willy Nyamitwe, Head of Communication of President Nkurunziza?

I found them worrying. When he says that he began to fear the worst, when he indicates that opposition groups could be responsible for this disappearance, it seems that the authorities are preparing somehow the ground for possible information announcing the death of Jean Bigirimana. I hope I’m not right and that this interpretation is not correct. Because at the same time, he said that he remains hopeful that Jean is still alive and that perpetrators will be identified and arrested. I share this hope. Burundian authorities should act quickly and shed light on his fate. I would appeal to Mr Nyamitwe: Jean is your former colleague, a journalist like you, do all your best to throw light on his disappearance.

Christian Bigirimana translated by Lorraine Josiane Manishatse

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