Germain Rukuki’s Second Appeal Proceedings Begin

Burundian Human Rights Defender given a second chance at receiving a fair trial

[Brussels/Nairobi] 24 March 2021 – Eight months after the Burundian Supreme Court rejected the Appeals Court’s decision to uphold his 32-year prison sentence, human rights defender Germain Rukuki today appeared for his second appeal proceedings. The Appeal Court's ruling is expected to be made next 24 April, in one months time. No additional hearings will be held during this period.

Protection International commends the Supreme Court’s decision of 30 June 2020, as fair trial guarantees and an impartial judiciary are not only an essential part of a just society, but also instrumental to the protection of the right to defend rights. This is why Protection International now calls on the Appeals Court of Burundi to carry out this new phase of the proceedings with scrupulous respect for fair trial standards, as outlined within Burundi’s Constitution, and in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which Burundi is a party since 1990.

Mr Rukuki is the founder of Njabutsa Tujane, a community-based association that fights poverty, famine and improves access to health. At the time of his arrest he was an employee of Burundian Catholic Lawyers Association (Association des Juristes Catholiques du Burundi - AJCB), and for many years he worked for ACAT-Burundi, an organisation that campaigns against torture.

Mr Rukuki was arrested by the National Intelligence Services in Bujumbura on 13 July 2017, making this the fourth year he has been incarcerated—even throughout the continual spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. On 26 April 2018, Mr Rukuki was sentenced to 32 years in prison by the Ntahangwa High Court – the longest sentence ever imposed on a human rights defender - even though no conclusive evidence was presented to support the prosecutor's counts. In its judgement to reject the appellate decision, the Supreme Court of Burundi cited irregularities during the appeals proceedings, namely that neither Mr Rukuki nor his legal team were present at the hearing itself due to the fact that they were only informed of the hearing six days after it already took place.

Protection International hopes for positive change in Burundi under the government of President Évariste Ndayishimiye, where human rights are respected and protected, and human rights defenders can exercise their right to defend human rights without fear of violence, retribution, or criminalisation.

Factual background:

o    Official statement and Timeline of Events Concerning Rukuki’s Case 2017-2019
o    UN experts call for release of Burundi human rights defender Germain Rukuki
o    Protection International insists on the release of Germain Rukuki
o    Open Letter addressed to the AU and ACHPR calling for the release of imprisoned Burundian HRDs
o    Relevant reports and news concerning Mr Rukuki’s case from Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), Front Line Defenders, the OMCT, amongst others.

For additional information, please contact:

Emily Humphreys, Advocacy Officer at Protection International: emily.humphreys [at] protectioninternational.org (emily.humphreys(at)protectioninternational.org)