The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein warned Monday of “a sharp increase in the use of torture and ill-treatment in Burundi” and voiced concerns about worrying reports of the existence of illegal detention facilities, both in Bujumbura and in the countryside.
“Since the beginning of the year, my team has recorded at least 345 new cases of torture and ill-treatment. These shocking figures are a clear indicator of the widespread and growing use of torture and ill-treatment by government security forces,” said Zeid. In all, some 595 people have been ill-treated or tortured since April 2015, a figure which is likely to be an under-estimate.
“Torture and ill-treatment mainly take place at the time of arrest, upon arrival or during detention, especially in facilities run by the Service national de renseignements (SNR), the police and, to a lesser extent, the army. Perpetrators of torture and ill-treatment have so far enjoyed total impunity,” the High Commissioner said.
“Many detainees visited by our team in the past few weeks had fresh wounds on their bodies. Some were unable to walk without assistance after being beaten with belts, iron rods or sharp objects, or burned. I am profoundly disturbed by these terrible accounts and I urge the Burundian Government, in the strongest terms possible, to put an immediate end to these unacceptable and illegal practices,” said Zeid.
Most of the tortured and ill-treated detainees say they were denied medical treatment. Some said intelligence services hid them in the toilets for days so their torture wounds could heal before they were returned to cells holding other prisoners.