IPU welcomes release of former Burundian MP Gérard Nkurunziza

By Inter-Parlementary Union (IPU)

GENEVA, Switzerland, February 3, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- IPU welcomes release of former Burundian MP Gérard Nkurunziza - IPU has welcomed the release today of former Burundian MP Gérard Nkurunziza after more than five years in custody in a case marked by grave judicial irregularities.

A member of the dissident wing of the Burundian ruling party CNDD-FDD, Nkurunziza was arrested in July 2008 accused of slandering the country's President and supplying arms for a rebellion against the government. According to his lawyers, no evidence was ever found and no weapons seized.

Burundian courts did not examine his case until May 2012 when the Supreme Court decided to hold hearings on it for the first time. However, it still did not consider the legality of Nkurunziza's continued detention.

The former Burundian MP was acquitted by the Supreme Court on 30 January on insufficient evidence.

IPU had long deplored the flagrant disregard for international and national fair-trial standards by the Burundian authorities, arguing that “justice delayed is justice denied”.

Nkuruniza's release follows that of two other dissident voices within CNDD-FDD in 2012. Pasteur Mpawenayo and Deo Nshirimana were both acquitted of plotting against the government after being held in custody for four and two years respectively.

IPU's Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians is, however, deeply concerned about the alleged harassment, threats and intimidation against Mpawenayo and Nshirimana since their release in 2012. It calls on the government to investigate these allegations and provide security for both men.

Another senior dissident, Hussein Radjabu, is serving a 13-year jail sentence for subversion since April 2008 in another case marked by irregularities. Having served more than a quarter of his sentence, IPU has encouraged the Burundian authorities to explore all possible legal remedies to his case, namely release on parole, a re-trial or a presidential pardon.

IPU has also expressed hope that an independent, legitimate and credible Truth and Reconciliation Commission will finally be established to shed light on the episodes of violence that have plagued Burundi since independence in 1962, including the assassination of six members of the National Assembly between 1994 and 2002.