Muyinga (Northern Burundi), 2 June 2008 (FH) - Twenty four Burundian soldiers appeared Monday before military auditors in the first trial on the massacres in Muyinga, where more than thirty people were killed in July 2006, reports Hirondelle Agency.

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The victims accused of belonging to Palipehutu-FNL, which has just signed an accord with the government, were killed and thrown in the Ruvubu River as they were detained in the "Mukoni" military camp in northern Burundi. Several communal administrators and the head of the intelligence services in Muyinga took part in their arrest.

Of the 24 soldiers indicted, two have been discharged. Only 14 were present, six of them being prisoners. The trial is being held in the same military camp that detained the victims before they were murdered.

From the beginning of the hearing, the court raised an exception in connection with the two discharged soldiers, who should theoretically be tried by a civilian court. The decision of the chamber, presided by Colonel Leonidas Nkurunziza, will be rendered Tuesday. According to one of the counsels for the plaintiffs, Nsabimana Lambert, both discharged soldiers should be tried by civilian courts in application of the Burundian Constitution which says that "no civilian can be tried before a military court".

The main defendant seems to have fled abroad. Colonel Vital Bangirimana, commander of the 4th Military region at the time of the facts, is prosecuted for murder and kidnapping. An international arrest warrant has been issued against him and the legal assistant informed the court that it does not have any news about him. His co-indictees are accused of various violations: murder as a co-author, complicity to murder and failure in public solidarity.

Also Pierre Claver Mbonimpa, President of the Association for the Promotion of Human Rights and Prisoners (APRODH), who quickly denounced these massacres, qualified this trial as a "joke". "Why start this trial after the escape of the alleged main figure?".


© Hirondelle News Agency