Burundi human rights defender Germain Rukuki released after four years

The Burundian authorities have overturned human rights defender Germain Rukuki’s conviction and released him immediately and unconditionally (PHOTO /Courtesy)

BUJUMBURA — Reacting to news that Burundian human rights defender Germain Rukuki has been released after serving more than four years in prison, Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for East and Southern Africa, said:

“It is terrific news that Germain is finally free. He should never have been jailed in the first place – as he was arrested, prosecuted and convicted simply for his human rights work.”

“This is a great moment for Germain, his family and friends and the hundreds of thousands of people around the world who tirelessly campaigned for his release. It is also a victory for human rights.”

Germain’s release comes after the appeal court on 4 June reduced his sentence from 32 years to one.

Rukuki was arrested in July 2017 and and condemned to a 32-year prison sentence after he was convicted of “rebellion”, “threatening State security”, “participation in an insurrectional movement” and “attack on the authority of the State”

In June 2020 the Supreme Court vacated the Appeal Court’s rejection of his appeal the previous year citing procedural irregularities  and directed the Appeal Court to hear the appeal again.

Many human rights defenders, opposition leaders and journalists have fled Burundi since the 2015 violent crackdown on protests against the late president Pierre Nkurunziza’s decision to run for a third term, and those who remained have been subjected to threats and reprisals, including physical attacks and enforced disappearances.

Rukuki joined the human rights movement when he was still a student, volunteering  and later working as staff member for ACAT-Burundi, an anti-torture organization.

ACAT-Burundi was suspended in 2015 and permanently shut down in 2016, along with four other human rights groups that also opposed President Nkurunziza’s bid for a third term.

He had moved to another organization at the time of his arrest, but his previous employment at ACAT-Burundi formed the basis of the charges against him.

Every December, in what has become the world’s biggest human rights event, people around the world write millions of letters, emails, tweets, Facebook posts and postcards as part of Amnesty International’s Write for Rights campaign, in support of people whose human rights are under attack. Rukuki’s case is one of the 10 selected for Write for Rights 2020. Other cases featured are from Algeria, Chile, Colombia, Malta, Myanmar, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, South Africa and Turkey.

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