• Fri. Jul 19th, 2024

Ruling RPC 5621/S of 28 April 2023 discharges the memory of the convicts


Jun 14, 2024

BUJUMBURA, June 14th (ABP) – On Wednesday, 12 June 2024, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (CVR) organised a conference in Bujumbura on Supreme Court ruling RPC 5621/S of 28 April 2023, which quashed and annulled the judgments handed down by the Bujumbura and Gitega War Councils in May 1972, to inform the Burundian public in general and the families of the victims in particular, because the ruling falls within the framework of transitional justice.

During the conference, the CVR Chairman, Amb. Pierre Claver Ndayicariye, began by recalling that on 20 December 2021, when it presented its progress report to the parliament meeting in congress, the CVR had already admitted the genocide against the Bahutu of Burundi in 1972-1973 and the crimes against humanity committed against the Batutsi of the south and on the shores of Lake Tanganyika and the Batwa of Mwaro and Muramvya.

According to the CVR Chairman, the judgement was quashed and annulled as a result of the work of the CVR, which submitted several recommendations to parliament and the government, one of which was to annul the judgements of the War Council of 6 May 1972, with a view to rehabilitating the innocent victims who had been animalised, chosified, stigmatised and robbed of their property.

                                                                                  View of the participants

The CVR Chairman pointed out that the reason why the CVR had requested the cassation and annulment of the judgements of 6 May 1972 was that the research carried out by the CVR through exhumations, hearings and archives had led the commission to conclude that the judgements had not respected the principles of a fair trial and were riddled with many irregularities. He pointed out that most of the convictions were posthumous. For those who were heard by the public prosecutor, they did not have the opportunity to be heard in the language of their choice. Most of the interrogations were conducted in French, even though some of them could neither read nor write.

The interrogations were very summary, and two or three questions were enough to demand the death penalty for people who did not even admit their responsibility. It is impossible to understand how a single public or ministerial officer (OMP) can question more than 100 people a day, according to the CVR Chairman.  Furthermore, the Conseil de Guerre has ruled on cases that were not referred to it.  The principles of presumption of innocence and due process were violated.  The defendants brought to trial had not been identified beforehand, and the judges were biased in their rulings. Other anomalies include the fact that civilians cannot be brought before the War Council, convicted persons have not been notified of decisions taken against them, defendants have been deprived of the right to legal aid and so on.

With regard to the advantages of the ruling, Pierre Claver Ndayicariye stated that the ruling removes the name of “Bamenja”, which was unfairly attached to the convicts. In addition, it transforms the condemned persons from animals and chosification into human beings.

For the victims, the discharge of the memory of the condemned allows them to carry out the mortuary rituals that were forbidden to them by the regime of the time. They can now openly mourn and lift the mourning for their loved ones.  Discharging the memory of the condemned opens the way for victims and their beneficiaries to exercise their right to remember (Kwibuka). All acts carried out to enforce those judgements are annulled, as are all the effects they have produced. The seizure and sale of the convicted persons’ property are annulled. Victims may now claim restitution of their property and even compensation.

In its decisions, the CVR will be guided by the imperative of rehabilitating the victims and achieving national reconciliation.

During the discussions, the participants in that session, including representatives of the political parties, representatives of parliament, representatives of the defence and security forces, representatives of the various ministries and representatives of civil society, placed great emphasis on the need for swift compensation for the victims of those atrocities. They also asked the CVR to take a census of the victims of the 1972 events, arguing that reports from different people give different figures.

According to the President of the CVR, to answer those questions, there will first be sessions to listen to the views of the population to find out what compensation is appropriate for the victims, and then we will proceed to compensate them in accordance with the new law. As for the census of the victims of the events of 1972, he said that that work had already begun. He did not forget to mention that the CVR’s reports are currently being analysed, with a view to making them available in the country’s various libraries.