Burundi: Global campaign to free Germain Rukuki launched today

  • Amnesty International highlights Germain Rukuki’s case in its flagship annual letter-writing campaign

The Burundian authorities must overturn human rights defender Germain Rukuki’s conviction and release him immediately and unconditionally, Amnesty International said today as it launched its annual letter-writing human rights campaign, Write for Rights.

“Germain Rukuki has been behind bars for more than three years on trumped-up charges. During this period, he has not seen his family or held his youngest son who was born after his arrest. Rukuki is paying the price for his dedication to human rights in a country where the government and ruling party remain intolerant of any form of dissent,” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for East and Southern Africa.

“We are calling on the world to stand in solidarity with Germain Rukuki, a prisoner of conscience detained solely for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression, and write a letter urging the Burundian authorities calling to release him and for an end to their crackdown on human rights defenders.”

Rukuki was arrested in July 2017 and is serving 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. A new hearing date has not yet been announced.

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.