[JURIST] Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] on Thursday urged the government of Burundi [JURIST news archive] to hold accountable those responsible for human rights violations [press release] during the country's 16-year armed conflict. HRW released the statement on the fifth anniversary of the Gatumba Massacre [HRW backgrounder], in which more than 150 Congolese refugees were killed by members of the rebel National Liberation Forces (FNL) [GlobalSecurity backgrounder]. HRW said:
The conflict, which ended in 2009, was characterized by widespread and systematic violations of international humanitarian and human rights law by all warring factions, including murder, rape, and torture. The government has failed to carry out any meaningful investigations or prosecutions for these serious crimes, and has stalled on commitments to establish a truth and reconciliation commission and a special tribunal to prosecute crimes committed during the conflict.
HRW called upon the Burundian government to take immediate action to bring the perpetrators from all sides of the conflict to justice.
Burundi is still recovering from the 16-year civil war [GlobalSecurity backgrounder] between the Hutu majority and the dominant Tutsi minority, which began in 1993 and claimed more than 300,000 victims. Current Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza [BBC profile], an ex-Hutu rebel leader, born-again Christian, and member of the National Council for the Defense of Democracy-Forces for the Defense of Democracy (NCDD-FDD) [GlobalSecurity backgrounder], was elected in 2005 after the implementation of a UN-created peace plan, but his presidency has been marred by accusations of assassinations and torture [JURIST report]. In November, the Burundian parliament voted in favor of laws abolishing the death penalty and criminalizing homosexuality [JURIST report] in the country. The elimination of the death penalty in Burundi was a requirement for establishing a UN-led truth and reconciliation committee and tribunal in the country, but rights groups have strongly condemned [JURIST reports] the criminalization of homosexuality. In October, a Burundi military court sentenced a colonel to death [JURIST report] for his role in the killings of 31 civilians in the country's Muyinga province in 2006.