Although the civil war ended in 2006, cases of torture, extrajudicial execution and arbitrary detention are still a reality in Burundi. The shortcomings of the judicial system, the climate of impunity and the fear of reprisal are the main obstacles that hinder victims’ access to their rights. Since 2011, TRIAL has supported the victims of serious human rights violations in their pursuit of justice.

Since its independence in 1962, Burundi has suffered several coups and violent clashes between the Hutu majority and the Tutsi minority. The murder by the Tutsi-controlled army of the first democratically elected president, Mr Melchior Ndadaye (a Hutu) in 2003 triggered a civil war that lasted until 2006 and cost the lives of 300,000 civilians. A ceasefire agreement had been signed in 2000 between the government and the main rebel groups, but two Hutu factions’ refusal to stick to the peace process led to an escalation of violence.

In 2006, the last active rebel group – the National Liberation Forces (Forces Nationales de Libération, FNL) – signed a ceasefire agreement with the government, thereby putting an official end to the Burundian civil war. Despite that, fresh cycles of violence and serious human rights violations overshadowed the elections in 2010 and 2015.

The Burundian legal system has yet to provide an effective response to punish past and present human rights violations, or to prevent future ones. Within this context, the peace process cannot be sustainably consolidated, and the transitional justice mechanisms are still not well established.

Bringing justice to victims

TRIAL International’s mission in Burundi is to improve access to regional and international justice for the victims of international crimes. The organization offers free legal support to numerous victims of torture, extrajudicial execution and arbitrary detention, regardless of their origin, ethnicity, language, religion or gender.

In Burundi, TRIAL International mainly defends the victims of international crimes before the United Nations Committee against Torture, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.

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Fighting impunity

TRIAL International is fighting to bring the perpetrators of the most serious crimes committed in Burundi to justice. To that end, it commissions local lawyers to represent the interests of victims of international crimes or the interests of their relatives. These Burundian lawyers file complaints against the alleged perpetrators of these crimes before national courts.

Training human rights defenders

In order to sustainably improve the quality of the judicial system, TRIAL International also aims to strengthen the capacities of local actors. It supports lawyers, legal experts and human rights defenders to coordinate their action against impunity.

Specifically, TRIAL International provides Burundian civil society with practical tools that enable them to:

  • Document serious human rights violations
  • Represent the victims of such violations at national, regional and international levels
  • Push the authorities to implement decisions made by international and regional human rights bodies

Advocating greater justice

Advocacy completes TRIAL International’s actions in Burundi. In association with a dependable network of civil society partners, the NGO submits reports and recommendations on the human rights situation in Burundi to actors of the international community: the United Nations Human Rights Committee, the United Nations Committee against Torture, the African Union, etc.

The aim of these actions is to pressure the Burundian authorities into abiding to international human rights standards.

2016 Country Facts
human rights defenders trained
new victims helped
ongoing cases at international level
ongoing cases at domestic level