Centre for Law and Democracy notes with concern that Pierre-Claver Mbonimpa, a prominent human rights defender, has been detained by the Burundian government. Mr. Mbonimpa has been charged with spreading false rumours to incite the population to rise up against the authorities, threatening external security and forgery. The charges stem from a radio broadcast in which Mr. Mbonimpa participated on 6 May, and in which he stated that members of the Imbonerakure, the youth wing of Burundi’s ruling party, the National Council for the Defense of Democracy – Forces for the Defense of Democracy (CNDD-FDD), are receiving arms and military training in the Democratic Republic of Congo. It is worth noting that Mr. Mbonimpa has offered photographic evidence in support of these allegations, and that Parfait Onanga-Anyanga, UN Secretary- General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Office in Burundi, warned the UN Security Council on 14 May that there was a risk of violence between politically-affiliated youth groups in the upcoming elections in Burundi.
According to Principle 46 of the Global Principles on National Security and the Right to Information (Tshwane Principles), the leading international statement on freedom of expression and national security, speech deemed harmful to national security should only be penalised if: a) the person’s intent was to harm national security; and b) the disclosure poses a real and identifiable risk of causing significant harm. Mr. Mbonimpa’s detention clearly fails this test. He did not act with intent and, far from being harmful to national security, his statements seek to protect Burundi’s security by avoiding bloodshed in the upcoming elections.
In the opinion of CLD, Mr. Mbonimpa’s arrest, prosecution and continued detention violate international human rights law and in particular Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Burundi ratified on 9 May 1990. CLD has now authored a letter calling on the government of Burundi to release Mr. Mbonimpa and to drop all charges against him. CLD further calls on the Burundian government to fulfil its obligations under international human rights law, as well as Burundi’s own constitution, and guarantee that Mr. Mbonimpa, along with all human rights defenders, are allowed to operate freely in Burundi.
For further information, please contact:
Centre for Law and Democracy
Tel: +1 902 448-5290