Human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, SAN, has dragged the government of Burundi to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights over the killing of protesters in the country.
The petition, dated May 5, 2015 and sent to the Commission’s Secretary, Mary Maboreke, reads in part:
“I am sending this petition for the urgent attention of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights regarding the continuing human rights violations by the government of Burundi, in particular the attacks against peaceful protesters, journalists and human rights activists, following protests over President Pierre Nkurunziza’s decision to run for a third term.”
“I urge the African Commission to ensure effective remedies for a multiple violations of the rights of the people of Burundi to life, personal liberty, freedom of expression, association and assembly, guaranteed under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights to which Burundi is a state party.”
“Despite its obligations under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and other international treaties to which Burundi is a state party, the authorities continue to violate the right to life, personal liberty, freedom of expression, association and assembly in the context of the on-going human rights crisis in the country.”
“On April 25, 2015, the ruling National Council for the Defense of Democracy-Forces for the Defense of Democracy (CNDD-FDD) announced that Nkurunziza would be its candidate in June elections. Since then, there are several reports of unlawful killing of citizens as a result of excessive use of force by the police to stop peaceful demonstrations. Many human rights activists have also been arbitrarily arrested. The government has also targeted three popular radio stations – Radio publique africaine (RPA), Radio Isanganiro, and Radio Bonesha FM.”
“I am seriously concerned that the continuing serious human rights violations constitute a fundamental breach of Burundi’s obligations under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.”
“The African Charter imposes clear obligations on Burundi to respect, protect, fulfil and promote the human and peoples’ rights it guarantees, and to thoroughly and transparently investigate and prosecute perpetrators.
I am seriously concerned that the government is failing to live up to these obligations. Yet, the African Charter requires all state parties including Burundi to ensure to all persons their fundamental rights without distinction of any kind, including race, language, religion, national origin, or other status.”
“The government of Burundi has a positive obligation to prevent and punish human rights violations/abuses including by its agents or private actors. But the government is permitting or failing to take appropriate measures or to exercise due diligence to prevent, punish, investigate or redress the harm caused by these serious human rights violations.”
“I therefore urge the African Commission to consider the present Complaint under Articles 55, 56 and 58 of the African Charter. I further urge the African Commission to undertake an in-depth study, based on the “series of serious” and “massive” violations alleged in this Communication.”
“I am filing this Communication with the African Commission because no adequate or effective domestic remedies exist to address the violations alleged in this Communication.”
“Generally, local remedies must be exhausted prior to submitting a Communication to the Commission. There are, however, exceptions to this general rule. The African Commission has stated that local remedies must be available, effective and sufficient. A local remedy is considered available if the petitioner can pursue it without impediment, it is effective if it offers a prospect of success and it is sufficient if it is capable of redressing the complaint. Given the on-going human rights crisis in the country, it is impossible to exhaust domestic remedies in Burundi.”
Mr. Falana therefore asked the African Commission to:
1. Consider the present Communication under Articles 55, 56 and 58 of the African Charter. I further urge the African Commission to undertake an in-depth study, based on the “series of serious” and “massive” violations alleged in this Communication;
2. By virtue of the widespread human rights violations, including unlawful killing, attacks against journalists, human rights activists and the citizens as a whole in Burundi, find that the government of Burundi has violated Articles 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 9, 10, and11 of the Charter; and make an order for the government to provide appropriate redress for these violations.
3. Ask Burundi to immediately refrain from any action that would result in continuing loss of life or violation of other human rights in breach of the provisions of the African Charter and other international human rights instruments to which it is a party
4. Ask Burundi to pay just and adequate compensation to the victims for the multiple violations of their Charter rights and freedoms.
Ask Burundi to end all human rights violations and abuses and to faithfully and fully implement the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and ensure the rights of Burundians;
5. Pursuant to Rules 84(2) and 118(3)(4) of the Rules of Procedure, refer the matter to the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights
“This complaint has not been submitted to any other procedure of international investigation or settlement. I therefore respectfully request the African Commission to be seized of this complaint. The Applicant will make submissions on admissibility and the merits when invited to do so.”