Human rights defender
Richard is an outspoken human rights defender from Burundi and works closely with the major Burundian activist Pierre Claver Mbonimpa. Richard openly criticized the violations committed by those in power, and he works as an observer in prisons APRODH (Burundaise Association pour la Protection des Droits Humains et des Personnes Détenues) in order to monitor the rights of prisoners.
The organisation seeks to assess the status of human rights in general and the rights of persons deprived of freedom in particular. Its activities involve the fight against torture and all kinds of violence and abuse, and advocating for victims of human rights violations as well as assisting vulnerable people to access fair justice. It also plays a role in raising awareness about national and international human rights issues. Richard also participated in the 112th Session of the Human Rights Committ ee in Geneva as representative for Burundian civil society.
In the run of the 2015 general elections, the situation is currently extremely tense in Burundi, a small South -eastern African country in the Great Lakes region. Opposition party members face continuous obstruction and harassment. So do journalists and civil society activists whose criticism against the current government is perceived as siding with the opposition. In June 2014, President Pierre Nkurunziza promulgated a new press law severely curtailing media freedoms. Members of the imbonerakure — the youth league of the ruling Party (CNDD-FDD) — regularly commit acts of violence, including killings, beatings, rape, threats, and extortion against their perceived opponents and other Burundians. In a context were the judicial system is defective, many crimes remain unpunished. For those prosecuted, important delays affect the procedures so that suspects can be preventatively detained for periods of up to 5 years, in serious violation to the rights of detainees. Prisoners and detained in Burundi also face dreadful conditions of detention, overcrowding and violation of their basic human rights.
APRODH has been particularly active in accelerating the proceedings against detained suspects. The advocacy campaigns conducted by APRODH and other Human Rights groups in 2011 and 2012 also led to the release of over 7,000 people detained for minor crimes. Through his work with prisoners and activism for free and fair elections, Richard directly criticises and obstructs the current authorities and public institutions’ wrongdoings. As a consequence, he receives frequent threats from supporters of the party in power. Richard has asked to participate in the Shelter City programme in order to get some rest and be away from that stressful situation for a while. He would also like to get trained on various issues and talk publicly about his work and the situation in Burundi.