During 2023, Burundi continued to face major political and human rights challenges, as in previous periods.
The absence of committed and enlightened leadership within the political class of the ruling CNDD-FDD party would explain this situation, in addition to a clear desire on the part of the current President, Evariste Ndayishimiye, to reinforce himself as the strong man within his political party.
In terms of security, intimidation of opponents and others perceived as such persists, as do abuses and crimes committed by the youth of the ruling party, supported by the authorities in most regions of the country . CNL members have been intimidated, arbitrarily arrested, kidnapped and in some cases murdered.

With regard to public rights and freedoms, the obstruction of the exercise of these rights persists in liberticidal laws such as the law on ASBLs, the law on the press, the law on public demonstrations, etc. in order to allow the authorities to exercise disproportionate control over any dissenting voice. In practical terms, the government in power has cracked down on the media , civil society and political opponents, and infringements of civil liberties were recorded during 2023.
In terms of human rights, Burundi has not made any notable progress in terms of respecting and promoting human rights.
Human rights organisations continue to report cases of crimes and human rights violations, including extrajudicial executions, abductions, torture and arbitrary and illegal detentions. These violations are attributable to State agents and members of the Imbonerakure youth group affiliated to the CNDD-FDD party.

For the most part, these crimes go unpunished because the Burundian justice system, which was supposed to crack down on them, is manipulated by various political and social pressure groups. Access to justice remains problematic for the victims of human rights violations, most of whom, for fear of reprisals, dare not denounce the perpetrators, since the authorities are using a climate of terror to govern in the absence of governance that meets the standards of a democratic state .
Burundi still refuses to cooperate with human rights protection mechanisms (UN & AU), and there is not always the political will to cooperate with the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights.
As far as Burundi’s prisons are concerned, ACAT-Burundi welcomes the speeches of good intent made by various authorities, including those in charge of the Ministry of Justice, to improve prison conditions by reducing overcrowding and releasing prisoners, especially those accused of minor offences .

ACAT-Burundi has learned with satisfaction of the release of detainees held in January and February 2023 in the Mpimba, Ngozi, Ruyigi and Gitega prisons. This release is part of the implementation of the promise made by the Head of State in his message to the nation on the occasion of the 2021 festive season.
These releases respond to the concerns we have already expressed in our reports about the problem of prison overcrowding and its consequences.

It should be noted that there is still a long way to go, as prisons remain severely overcrowded if current occupancy rates are anything to go by. We have also noted that the current releases are excluding a certain category of prisoners, namely those accused of political offences. For these prisoners, the execution of judicial decisions remains problematic when it comes to release.

ACAT-Burundi also deplores the fact that these measures are far from being effective due to the persistent practice of resorting to imprisonment, even for minor offences. This situation is exacerbated by dysfunctions within the Ministry of Justice, which slow down investigations with unfortunate consequences, including recurrent prison overcrowding. At the end of the year, 31 December 2023, prison overcrowding remained high, with 1,3693 prisoners .

ACAT-Burundi appreciates that cases of torture and ill-treatment have gradually decreased, although the phenomenon remains. These inhuman and degrading treatments are inflicted on certain political prisoners by their peers who act as representatives of the prisoners grouped together in security committees. These prisoners, who are generally close to the ruling party, mistreat prisoners from known opposition circles, often with the complicity of prison officials.

Prisoners who are members of CNL, MSD, ex-military or police officers of the Burundian Armed Forces, and other prisoners of conscience, can be seen in prisons such as Mpimba, Gitega, Muramvya, Ngozi and Muyinga.

In addition, the judicial files, especially those of the categories of opponents mentioned above, are not progressing normally as a result of interference by the Executive and certain influential members of the party in power, and the corruption that characterises the Burundian judicial system.

Other challenges, such as incompetence, the lack of adequate resources to ensure access to food and healthcare, and the absence of structural reforms such as digitisation and the reorganisation of the courts and tribunals, are causing the Burundian judicial system to malfunction.

Within the prisons, this report is a summary of the monthly reports produced from January to December 2023 and covers the prisons of GITEGA, MURAMVYA, BUJUMBURA, BUBANZA, NGOZI, RUTANA, RUYIGI, MUYINGA and RUMONGE.

It focuses mainly on prison conditions, taking into account the rights guaranteed to persons deprived of their liberty and prison overcrowding; the administration of these prisons and certain emblematic cases demonstrating the irregularities or malfunctions observed in the judicial files of persons deprived of their liberty.

Please find below the full annual report for 2023:
ACAT-Burundi annual report on the human rights situation, 2023 edition

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