Burundi children in prison for ‘insulting’ presidentFrom OMEGA SSUUNA in Bujumbura, Burundi
BUJUMBURA, (CAJ News) – SOME Ugandan schoolchildren could spend up to ten years in prison following their arrest for allegedly defacing pictures of Pierre Nkurunziza in their books.
Aged between 14 and 19, they face charges of “insulting” the president.
The children are among many political prisoners that remain in jail and that a new pattern of mass arrests has emerged recently, mostly affecting ordinary people.
The violations emerged following a just-concluded visit by a team of human rights experts of the United Nations Independent Investigation on Burundi (UNIIB) to the troubled central African country.
“In various parts of the country, school children have been arrested or suspended from school because their books had scribbles on pictures of the Head of State,” reported Christof Heyns, one of the three experts and Head of UNIIB.
“Some of them (schoolchildren) face the prospect of spending five to ten years in jail. We will continue to closely follow these cases,” added Heyns.
Burundi has been immersed in crisis after Nkurunziza, at the helm since 2005, clung on to power last April in violation of the constitution.
Apart from wanton arrests, more than 400 people have been killed and 20 000 fled the country of 10 million people following the turmoil that ensued in April 2015.
Human rights experts noted the state of disarray of civil society in Burundi where the organisations continue to function operate in a climate of fear and intimidation.
UNIIB proposed dialogue despite the intervention of the African Union proving unsuccessful.
They are scheduled to submit their final report to the UN Human Rights Council in September.
– CAJ News
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