Burundi rights crackdown condemned


The European parliament passed a resolution condemning Burundi for restricting freedom of expression and violating human rights ahead of May elections.

The resolution passed on Thursday states EU lawmakers are concerned about government “intimidation, harassment and arbitrary arrest of journalists, human rights activists and members of the opposition”.

It says media in the east African nation work in a “climate of fear”, creating conditions not conducive for credible elections.

Burundi government officials were not immediately reachable for comment on the resolution. Government previously denied violating human rights or restricting freedom of expression.

President Pierre Nkurunziza, who won a referendum last year that could allow him to stay in power until 2034, said repeatedly he will not seek a fourth term, but his ruling party has not named a candidate.

Hundreds of Burundians died in clashes with security forces since 2015, when Nkurunziza won his third term. The opposition said his candidacy violated terms of a peace deal that ended the east African nation’s civil war with Nkurunziza disputing it.

The EU parliamentary resolution is non-binding, but adds to a steady stream of international criticism.

UN investigators warned in September Burundi was at risk of a new wave of atrocities as the election neared and there was a climate of intimidation against anyone who did not show support for the ruling party.

Burund Human Rights Minister Martin Nivyabandi told Reuters at the time government denied the allegations. “The content of the report doesn’t match the reality in the country,” he said.

The EU resolution condemned government’s decision to charge four Burundian journalists with undermining state security after their arrest in October while covering clashes between rebels and government forces.

In December, the public prosecutor asked for a 15-year sentence for the journalists.

“The journalists’ detention and trial comes amidst a suffocating atmosphere for Burundian journalists,” said Lewis Mudge, Central Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “These are not conditions for free and fair elections.”