There is growing interest in passing legislation for the protection of HRDs in Burundi.

The Independent National Human Rights Commission (CNIDH in French) spearheaded efforts to draw up a bill to be submitted to the ministries of justice and human rights for their backing. From 2013 to mid-2014, The CNIDH embarked on a broad consultation process with civil society, with the support of the United Nations Office in Burundi. The text of the bill borrows considerably from the text of the recently adopted law in Côte d’Ivoire. In so doing, the Burundian draft bill unfortunately carries many of the flaws already highlighted in the Ivorian legislation (see Côte d’Ivoire).

Notwithstanding this, the bill foresees the formulation and implementation of an HRD protection policy under the responsibility of a Working Group, which will include government authorities and representatives of HRDs (Title IV, art. 17-20). However, it is unclear how such a working group will be able to ensure both broad representation of civil society and independence from the government while securing the funds necessary for it to function adequately in the long term. Moreover, the bill lacks clear orientation on how the policy is supposed to be devised, particularly regarding reactive and preventive protection measures, coordination among different state institutions responsible for HRD protection, the fight against impunity, and the promotion and respect of HRD activities by authorities.

Despite this, the recent interest of the CNIDH appears to be waning after some of the commissioners involved in drafting the bill were replaced in mid-2014. Furthermore, civil society organisations doubt the government’s commitment to promoting an HRD protection bill when it has instead being more interested in reducing the space available for human rights activists.[1]

PI in Burundi

PI was invited to participate in a roundtable on the situation of HRDs held in Bujumbura on 20 March 2014.[2] The event, which was supported by the UN, was part of the CNIDH-led consultation process with civil society. The agenda of the roundtable focused on the discussion of the CNIDH draft bill to protect HRDs. PI contributed by sharing its experiences in similar legislative processes in Latin America, where public policies for the protection of HRDs have been implemented. Following the roundtable, PI has continued to engage with the CNIDH by providing a detailed analysis of the draft bill and hands-on suggestions to strengthen the normative framework.

[1] Protection International interview with Burundian HRDs. Brussels. 24 September 2014.

[2] Protection International. “Burundi: PI participates with the National Independent Human Rights Commission (CNIDH) to support the protection of human rights defenders”. 23 April 2014.


***The above information comes from PI’s publication FOCUS 2014.