Online Editor Jailed for Treason
PEN International protests the continued detention of Jean-Claude Kavumbagu, editor of the online press agency Net Press, who was arrested on July 17, 2010. He is charged with treason on the basis of an article in which he suggested that the Burundian security forces would not be able to defend the country in the event of a terrorist attack. PEN believes that Kavumbagu is being held in violation of his right to freedom of expression, guaranteed by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, to which Burundi is a state party. It is calling for his immediate and unconditional release.
The following is an Urgent Action issued by Amnesty International on December 6, 2010:
Jean-Claude Kavumbagu, the editor of a Burundian online news agency, Netpress, has been detained since July after suggesting that the Burundian security forces could not defend the country. He has not been tried and was denied a bail request on appeal in November.
Jean-Claude Kavumbagu published an article on 12 July 2010, one day after suicide bombings in Kampala, Uganda, criticizing the capacity of Burundian security forces to protect the country from a terrorist attack. Somali Islamist armed group, al-Shabaab, claimed responsibility for the bombings in Uganda. They also threatened to attack Burundi in retaliation for Burundi’s participation in the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).
Jean-Claude Kavumbagu’s article said that “the anxiety has been palpable in Bujumbura and all those who have heard about [the bombings] yesterday in Kampala were convinced that if the al-Shabaab militants wanted to try ‘something' in our country, they would succeed with disconcerting ease, [as] our defense and security forces shine in their capacity to pillage and kill their compatriots rather than defend our country.” He was arrested on 17 July, questioned without a lawyer, charged with treason, and transferred to Mpimba Central Prison, Bujumbura.
Treason is a crime punishable by life imprisonment and is only applicable under Burundian law in time of war. Jean-Claude Kavumbagu has also been charged with defamation and violating Burundi’s press law. Amnesty International considers him to be a prisoner of conscience detained solely for exercising his right to freedom of expression. His detention may detrimentally impact on the exercise of free expression in Burundi. It could increase self-censorship by other journalists to protect themselves from arbitrary arrest and detention.
Jean-Claude Kavumbagu’s bail request was rejected on 6 September. At the appeal on 9 November, his defence claimed that violating the press law and defamation do not justify preventative detention and that treason is not a valid charge. However, the Appeal Court of Bujumbura confirmed his pre-trial detention on 11 November. As of 6 December, his lawyers had not received a copy of the ruling and were waiting for the trial date to be announced.
Mpimba Central Prison is overcrowded and insanitary and conditions fall well below international standards.
Write A Letter
- Expressing grave concern that journalist Jean-Claude Kavumbagu has been detained on charges of treason and defamation for criticizing the Burundian security services;
- Urging the authorities to release him immediately and unconditionally, as he has been detained solely for exercising his right to freedom of expression;
- Reminding the authorities that, as a state party to the African Charter of Human and Peoples’ Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Burundi is obliged to uphold the right to freedom of expression.
Send Your Letter To
Président de la République Pierre Nkurunziza
Présidence de la République
Boulevard de l'Uprona
Fax: +257 22 24 89 08
Premier Vice-président Yves Sahinguvu
Présidence de la République
Fax: +257 22 22 74 90
Please copy appeals to the diplomatic representatives for Burundi in your country if possible.
Please contact this office if sending appeals after January 17, 2011: ftw [at] pen.orgburb