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Burundi: Conviction and heavy sentencing of human rights defender Mr Faustin Ndikumana
On 24 July 2012, human rights defender Mr Faustin Ndikumana and his organisation Parole et Action pour le Réveil des Consciences et l'Evolution des Mentalités – PARCEM (Words and Action for the Awakening of Conscience and the Evolution of Mindsets) were convicted of making false declarations under Article 14 of the Anti-Corruption Law, in connection with public statements made on the issue of corruption in the judiciary.
Faustin Ndikumana is the President of PARCEM, an association which fights against corruption.
The Anti-corruption Court sentenced Faustin Ndikumana to five years' imprisonment and a fine of BIF 500,000 (approximately 286 Euro) for allegedly making false declarations, and PARCEM was ordered to pay a fine of BIF 5 million (approximately 2,865 Euro) for the same offence.
The human rights defender and PARCEM were further ordered to pay BIF 10 million (approximately 5,729 Euro) in “moral damages” to the Minister of Justice, Mr Pascal Barandagiye. PARCEM has indicated that an appeal will be lodged to the Supreme Court as soon as a copy of the judgment is made available, and it is not clear whether or not Faustin Ndikumana will be imprisoned prior to the appeal.
Prosecuted for highlighting corruption in the legal system
The case relates to a Press conference held by PARCEM on 3 February 2012 about information the organisation had received from some judges according to which they had been asked to pay between 1,000 and 1,500 USD in order to secure a post at the Ministry of Justice. The same information had been sent by PARCEM to the Minister of Justice on 1 February.
Court fails to address legal anomalies in trial proceedings
Several irregularities have been reported concerning the judicial proceedings. The Minister for Justice lodged the complaint in his personal capacity and hired a private lawyer in spite of the fact he had never been named in any of the PARCEM's statements, which dealt with the practice of corruption in the ministry. Furthermore, the Minister complained against Faustin Ndikumana in his personal capacity, although the defender was acting as a representative of PARCEM, which is a separate legal entity.Previous Action by Front Line Defenders on behalf of Faustin Ndikumana
Front Line Defenders condemns the conviction and heavy sentencing of Faustin Ndikumana, and considers these measures to be motivated by PARCEM's legitimate work against corruption in the judicial system and its impact on access to equitable justice for all citizens.