26.11.07 - BURUNDI/JUSTICE - DIFFERENCES ON THE COMPOSITION OF A SPECIAL TRIBUNAL FOR BURUNDI

  Bujumbura, 26 November 2007 (FH) - Three weeks after the launch of the Steering Committee on transitional Justice in Burundi, opinions diverge on the composition of the Special Tribunal charged with trying crimes of genocide committed in the country since independence.   
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This tribunal, in which the United Nations must be represented, following the examples of Sierra Leone and Cambodia, was planned by the Arusha Peace Accords signed in 2000 between the Burundian parties. Added to this tribunal, a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) is also planned to examine all the crimes committed since 1962.
 
"A Special Tribunal for Burundi should be supervised by foreign magistrates to ensure its independence", wished François Bizimana, spokesperson of CNDD party (pro-Hutu opposition). In his opinion, Burundians should not control such a tribunal because each ethnic group (there are two main groups, Hutus and Tutsis) accuses the other of having done wrong.
 
Laurent Nzeyimana, a former minister of justice, also a spokesperson for an opposition party, MRC (pro-Tutsi), expressed a similar point of view; estimating that only foreigners should sit on a tribunal called to decide crimes of genocide, "in accordance with the provisions of international law".
 
The jurist emphasized that the case of Burundi differs from that of Sierra Leone, where a Special Tribunal tries officials for war crimes and crimes against humanity. "I wonder if there were crimes of genocide in Sierra Leone? ", he asked while bringing forth this nuance.
 
As for Raymond Kamenyero, member of the Forum for the Reinforcement of Civil Society (FORSC), an "apolitical" association, he estimates that Burundian magistrates can sit but "with an international statute". A point of view which he shares with Marguerite Bukuru of the UN section for human rights. The official points out that "the peace process in Burundi has always had a mixed nature since the Arusha (Tanzania) negotiations until now".
 
The former minister for regional integration and member of the governing party, Cndd-Fdd, Karenga Ramadhani expressed the same sentiment; explaining that the mechanisms of transitional justice in Burundi must be supported by an "external contribution".
 
The Special Tribunal is one of the mechanisms of transitional justice resulting from the Arusha Accords, which also plans the creation of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission. They have to explore judicial and non-judicial ways to investigate crimes committed in Burundi since independence in 1962. According to the UN, an independent prosecutor is supposed to examine the cases brought by the TRC but can also open others.
 
GA/PB/MM
 
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