UNCAT is concerned about reprisals against four Burundi lawyers

The UNCAT stands against four burundian lawyers sanctions

The UNCAT stands against four burundian lawyers sanctions

The UN Committee against Torture-UNCAT has voiced grave concern about reported reprisals against four Burundian lawyers.  Armel Niyongere, Lambert Nigarura, Dieudonné Bashirahishize and Vital Nshimirimana – who provided information to the UNCAT for a special review of Burundi in Geneva on 28 and 29 July- will be dismissed from Burundi bar over the request of  the public prosecutor.

In the statement issued on 29 July, the Burundian prosecutor asked the President of the Bujumbura Bar Council to strike the lawyers off under the allegation of non-compliance with professional ethics. Armel Niyongere and Vital Nshimirimana were specifically charged with the involvement in some criminal cases in relation to the participation in insurrectionary movements, the coup attempt and the traffic of image broadcast on France 3 TV channel in connection with a so-called genocide in Karuzi eastern province of Burundi.

“The prosecutor requested sanctions against the lawyers, rather than an inquiry to establish the facts, what raised concerns with respect to the presumption of innocence”, said Jens Modvig, the Chair and Alessio Bruni, the Rapporteur on Reprisals, of the UNCAT, in the statement issued on 8 August.

The UNCAT reminds the Government of Burundi that reprisals contravene Article 13 of the Convention against Torture, of which the country has been a party since 1993. Article 13 states that complainants and witnesses should be protected against all ill-treatment or intimidation as a consequence of making a complaint or giving evidence.

In addition, the Committee has sent a letter to the Burundian ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, seeking urgent reassurances that no member of Burundian civil society would be subject to reprisals for cooperating with the Committee.

The Burundian Government is asked for a reply by 11 August before the UNCAT publish its findings on Burundi on 12 August.