Ex-Member of Civil Society Sentenced to 5 Years in Prison
Burundian authorities should immediately and unconditionally release lawyer, Tony Germain Nkina, who was sentenced to five years in prison in June 2021 in all likelihood because of his past human rights work, six international human rights groups said today.
The groups – Amnesty International, the Burundi Human Rights Initiative, DefendDefenders (East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project), Human Rights Watch, Protection International and TRIAL International – believe that the likely reason for Nkina’s arrest was his former affiliation with the Association for the Protection of Human Rights and Detained Persons (Association pour la protection des droits humains et des personnes détenues, APRODH), which was one of the leading human rights groups in Burundi until 2015.
The prosecution and imprisonment of Tony Germain Nkina is a worrying reminder that those who used to be part of Burundi’s once vibrant human rights movement are still at risk. The Burundian authorities should demonstrate their commitment to protecting human rights by immediately releasing Nkina and dropping all the charges against him. Burundi’s international partners should support the calls for his release.
Nkina, a lawyer in Kayanza province in northern Burundi, was arrested on October 13, 2020, in Kabarore commune, where he was visiting a client for his professional work. He was briefly detained by the intelligence service in Kayanza, then transferred to police detention, and finally to Ngozi prison, where he is currently detained.
October 2020 was a tense period in Kayanza following attacks by an armed group in the previous weeks, with several people killed or abducted. Nkina happened to visit Kabarore, one of the areas affected, soon after these attacks. The authorities accused him of collaborating with the armed opposition group RED-Tabara (Resistance for the Rule of Law in Burundi), which they hold responsible for the attacks, and charged him with endangering internal state security.
On June 15, 2021, the court of Kayanza convicted Nkina of “collaboration with rebels who attacked Burundi,” and sentenced him to five years in prison and a fine of one million Burundian francs (approximately US$ 500). His client, Apollinaire Hitimana, whom he had been advising on a land dispute and was arrested with him, was found guilty of complicity in the same offence and sentenced to two and a half years and a fine of 500,000 Burundian francs. An appeal hearing is scheduled for August 12, at the Ngozi court of appeal.