Prisoners kept in jail after serving sentence decry injustice

Prisoners claim a failure to manage prison sentences and release detainees on time is prevalent in Burundi.

Some of the jailed police and military officers who were involved in the 2015 coup attempt

Some of the jailed police and military officers who were involved in the 2015 coup attempt

Five prisoners who have served two year sentences for their contribution to the failed coup of 2015 are still in prison more than a month after their two-year terms ended. They are worried they might unjustly be kept in jail even longer, say sources close to the prisoners who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The sources say the prisoners had notified the prison director days beforehand that their sentence was to be up soon.
The Director of the Central Prison of Gitega where the prisoners claims that public prosecutor’s office of Bujumbura, which sentenced them, has not signed their release, even though he has requested it.

“We are still waiting for signed permission to free them”, says Alexis Manirakiza, the director.
The spokeswoman for the Supreme Court claims to know nothing of this request.
The five prisoners are police officers who were either drivers or body guards of high ranking police officers who took part in the 2015 failed attempt to overthrow President Pierre Nkurunziza.

They were sentenced on 18 May 2015. Based on this, they should have been freed on 18 May.
Four police and military officers who led the coup attempt were sentenced to life in prison in 2016. Nine others who played major roles received 30 year jail sentence. Eight received five year jail sentences for their minor roles.

The Minister of Justice, Aimée Laurentine Kanyana, claims to be against keeping prisoners who have served their sentences. “Any citizen who has been jailed and has served his sentence should be immediately released”, says Kanyana.

A recent study by the Association of Burundian Catholic Lawyers (AJCB) in partnership with Cordaid has concluded that the insufficient budget allotted to the Ministry of Justice is partly responsible for the delays.