Statement – Protection International strongly condemns the wrongful conviction to 32 years in prison for human rights defender Germain Rukuki in Burundi
Brussels, 26 April 2018 – Today, Germain Rukuki, a Burundian human rights defender, was sentenced to 32 years in prison by the Ntahangwa High Court in Burundi for charges of “rebellion”, “breach of State security”, “participation in an insurrectional movement” and “attack on the Head of State”. The decision of the court to impose a harsh verdict on Germain Rukuki is a notable miscarriage of justice and the result of the unlawful criminalization Germain has experienced since he was arrested in Bujumbura in July 2017.
Initially kept in the SNR facilities without access to a lawyer, Germain was transferred to the Ngozi prison in July 2017. In August 2017, he was first charged with “rebellion” and “breach of State security” for working with ACAT-Burundi, a human rights organization closed down by the government in 2016. After a 6-month pre-trial phase, three more charges were added during the first hearing on 13 February 2018: “assassinations”, “destruction of public and private buildings” and “participation in an insurrectional movement”. Germain appeared before the court for the second and last time on 3 April 2018 and was finally sentenced today, even though the prosecution failed to present any concrete and convincing evidence at the trial.
Protection International denounces the loss of freedom and wrongful conviction of Germain Rukuki as an unjust attack against his peaceful human rights work and as part of a deliberate and continuous attempt of Burundian authorities to silence and criminalize the exercise of the right to defend human rights in the country. On August 25th, 2017, a group of UN experts called for the release of Germain, and expressed their concern that national security charges were used to target the legitimate exercise of human rights contributing to “an overall context of threats and harassment against human rights defenders”.
Protection International calls on Burundian authorities to reverse and remedy the unlawful conviction of Germain Rukuki and to recognize the legitimacy of the human rights work of all defenders currently unlawfully criminalized in Burundi.