Pacifique Nininahazwe, one of the leading representatives of Burundian civil society and of the NGO of which he is the President, Forum pour la Conscience et le Développement(FOCODE), have for the last three weeks been the target of anonymous telephone calls and messages on social media making serious threats to him personally and to his family. These threats have intensified in recent days.
The threats follow Pacifique Nininahazwe’s lobbying activities in Europe in early November 2014. At the invitation of EurAc, which was presenting its Memorandum to the European Parliament, Pacifique spoke at the seminar on « Security and electoral challenges in the Great Lakes Region » on 5 November where he denounced the way in which freedom to discuss democratic and political matters was being blocked during the run-up to the elections to be held in June 2015 in his country. He also declared his opposition to a possible third term for the President of the Republic. He went on to Geneva to take part in an evaluation of Burundi by the UN Committee against Torture (11-12 November 2014) where through some international media he defended a position contrary to that of the official national delegation.
These threats addressed to him have been happening for a while and arise and persist at different levels each time there is a declaration about governance or human rights. Thus any critical report produced by a credible international organisation is attributed to him as the author or informer, so that he gets labelled as an enemy of the country in the pay of foreigners and of the opposition.
EurAc deplores the fact that the safety of Pacifique Nininahazwe, an indefatigable defender of Human Rights in his country, should be endangered. The threats of which he is currently the victim cannot in any way be justified on the basis of his work which is characterised by professionalism and by independence in relation both to the regime in power and to the opposition parties.
EurAc asks European parliamentarians to follow closely the situation of this defender of human rights to ensure that his life and that of his family are protected.
Following the case against Pierre Claver Mbonimpa (APRODH) who was provisionally released on 29 September 2014, the threats against Pacifique and his organisation are another illustration of the difficulties that civil society in Burundi has in carrying out its legitimate and vital work. Political « space » and respect for basic freedoms seem to be diminishing as the 2015 elections approach. The European Union must play its full part and put into effect the EU’s Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders.
EurAc wishes to draw the attention of MEPs to the briefing paper published on 25 November last which urged the necessity of dialogue and of a firm commitment by the EU on the monitoring and supervision of the electoral situation so as to avoid any backsliding which could have disastrous consequences on the process of building democracy in Burundi.