Pierre-Claver Mbonimpa’s trial must be fair

BurundiHuman rights defendersNews

Bujumbura, 3 July 2014 – On the day before Pierre-Claver Mbonimpa’s trial, Avocats Sans Frontières (ASF) is calling on the courts of Burundi to operate in strict compliance with laws and with full respect for its independence.   President of the Association for the Protection of Human Rights and Incarcerated Persons (Association pour la protection des droits humains et des personnes détenues, APRODH) in Burundi, Pierre-Claver Mbonimpa faces serious charges stemming from actions carried out as part of his work. ASF supports the lawyers defending this prominent defender of human rights. He is accused of endangering the internal and external security of the State, as well as forgery and using forged documents.

On 15 May, Pierre-Claver Mbonimpa was arrested in Bujumbura, interrogated and then charged by public prosecutors. The charges were brought against him because he exposed the supposed existence of centres where young Burundians receive military training in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Since then, this long-standing human rights activist, whose work is internationally recognised, has been detained despite his successive requests for provisional release to the High Court of the Municipality of Bujumbura, and then to the Court of Appeal of Bujumbura.

While the first public hearing of Mr Mbonimpa’s trial has been set for 4 July before the High Court, ASF is actively involved in his defence team. “We will focus on ensuring that there is scrupulous compliance with the judicial procedures and that Mr Mbonimpa’s rights of defence are strictly respected”, said Céline Lemmel, ASF Head of mission in Burundi.

ASF reiterates that lawyers and other defenders of human rights must be able to work without hindrance, intimidation, harassment or interference. It is an essential guarantee for establishing democratic life and strengthening the rule of law. “The legal restraints on the work of human rights defenders must be applied with utmost care by the political authorities and the courts because they violate the fundamental freedom of expression and, more specifically, the international rules on human rights defenders”, said Céline Lemmel.

Active in Burundi for 15 years, ASF promotes better access to justice for the most vulnerable people. Since 2011, and with financial support from the European Union, the Belgian ONG supports and protects lawyers and other human rights defenders in Burundi, Congo, Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda.

Picture : Human rights defender Pierre Claver Mbonipa at the public prosecutor’s office in Bujumbura on 5th June 2014 © Mazina T.