Detainees’ rights association concerned over presidential pardon process

Jean Marie Nshimirimana, Chairman of a local NGO « SPF-Ntabariza » involved in the defense of detainees’ rights says the presidential pardon process has some irregularities. “Detainees who have been asked to pay a fine amounting over BIF 1,150,000 remain in prison even though they have been sentenced to five years in prison.

Jean Marie Nshimirimana: « Some judicial officials hamper the presidential pardon process”

Many of them have to pay more than the fixed fine”, he says. Mr. Nshimirimana reacted to President Pierre Nkurunziza’s address to the nation, on December 31. He said the presidential pardon will be granted in 2020 to the detainees sentenced to five years’ imprisonment following the Article 114 of the Constitution. They include pregnant and breastfeeding women, detainees living with physical disabilities and those who have served half of their sentence. “The presidential pardon criteria will depend on the kind of the offenses committed and how they behave in prison,” he said.

Jean Marie Nshimirimana says some judges hamper the presidential pardon execution and keep detainees in prison. “How can a poor simple citizen from Cendajuru commune for instance, should be asked to pay a fine of about BIF 100 million, hope to be released?” he wonders adding that the decision also affects their families.
He says that the increase of prosecutions and prosecutors in different localities of the country has contributed to the increase of detainees in prison. “The Minister of Justice should facilitate the conditional liberation process to reduce the number of detainees,” he says.

Nshimirimana expects that the presidential pardon process announced for 2020 will differ from the previous one. “We hope that all the irregularities will be avoided in 2020,” he says.
The chairman of “SPF-Ntabariza” organization says 3,219 detainees were released in 2019 thanks to the presidential pardon. Burundi has 12,000 detainees in 11 prisons and two centers of reeducation throughout the country including Mpimba central prison which has today 4000 detainees instead of 800.