17 October 2008

Burundi: Muyinga Massacre Trial Opens Before Burundi's Military Court

Muyinga — The trial of alleged authors of the Muyinga massacre, during which, on the night from 16 to 17 June 2006, sixteen people believed to belong to the rebellion were killed after being captured, opened this week before the Military Court sitting in Muyinga, at the military camp of Mukoni, after the Supreme Court decided so.

In July 2006, more than 30 corpses were discovered in the Ruvubu River. The victims, who were believed to be linked to the opposition rebels, were captured and led to two military prisons. The auditor general (prosecutor in this military trial) Colonel Donatien Nkurunziza, has since the opening of the proceedings accused the leaders of the convoys that took the prisoners to the Ruvubu camp to have been the murderers of these people who were held in the Mukoni camp and in the prison of the region. The leaders of the convoys admit of having taken the victims to this place but say to have acted under the orders of the area commander, Colonel Vital Bangirinama.

According to the auditor general, Master Corporal Nzorijana, the main transmission agent of the commander in the military region, made two trips with ten prisoners to the Ruvubu Park, where they were killed. Nzorijana admitted the facts with the exception of the murders. "I respectively took 4 and 6 prisoners on orders from the colonel (...) I brought them to Ruvubu such as my mission was consigned, then I gave them to the leader of the military position in the park". Nobody specified the identity of this position leader. The leader of the third convoy also admitted the same facts. Sgt. Ntirampeba, head of the transmission agents, had firstly taken seven prisoners but one of them jumped off the vehicle and was able to escape.

The auditor general "is a hundred percent certain that these soldiers are the authors of the crime since they do not name the person to whom they claim to have given these prisoners". Twenty four people, whom 5 are in prison, are prosecuted in this case. A first trial in 2007 was quickly stopped, the Military Court did not consider that it had jurisdiction, which was contradicted by the Supreme Court, 16 accused had answered present while 8 were not present.

Among them, Colonel Bangirinama under the terms an international arrest warrant but who escaped. His case will be examined Thursday, announced the president of the court, Colonel Léonidas Ntibanoboka. In September 2008, during his first press conference, the Burundian president, Pierre Nkurunziza, had explained that he had personally prevented the arrest of Bangiranama fearing tensions between the police and the army. According to various sources, he would currently be living in Tanzania.

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