One of the casualties of decades of conflict and institutionalized impunity in Burundi is the country's justice sector. Thousands of Burundians, arrested during and since the end of the recent 7-year war, remain in detention without trial. Some of the most egregious human rights abuses (including incidents of death from torture) have occurred at extra-judicial detention centers.
Institutional and legislative reforms outlined by the government in its Plan for the Reform and Modernization of the Justice and Penitentiary are curtailed by serious resource constraints, insufficient awareness about its provisions by those expected to uphold it, and most disturbingly, the continuation of certain security forces to operate outside the supervision of any judicial authority.
IHRLG's partner NGOs in Burundi have expressed the need for increasing the pool of legal service providers who are prepared to capitalize on the recent reform of the Code of Criminal Procedures and for facilitating their collaboration with civil society groups. In response, we are training and assisting NGOs in addressing human rights violations perpetrated within the criminal justice system and enhancing access to justice for currently under-served groups (including returning refugees, children, youth, disinherited widows and women victims of sexual violence and rape).
We also collaborate with NGOs and legal service providers in developing reviews of case law and practice that provide information, analyses and positive precedent on how Burundi's courts decide cases where human rights are at stake.
Examples of IHRLG's efforts to promote access to justice by strengthening legal service providers and law reform initiatives include
- Developing a case law review on women's inheritance rights in collaboration with a Law professor at Bujumbura's University, the president of Ligue Burundaise pour l'Enfance et la Jeunesse (Burundian League for Children and Youth), a prominent lawyer in Bujumbura, the Deputy General Prosecutor of the Supreme Court, and the President of Association des Juristes Catholiques (Association of Catholic Jurists) who is also a former judge at the Supreme Court.
- Initiating a free legal assistance project to protect vulnerable women in the central jail of Bujumbura with the Association des Femmes Journalistes (Women Journalists Association) and the Association de la Jeune Fille Burundaise (Association of Young Burundian Women).