Burundi: Still no justice for murdered British aid worker or other massacre victims

Posted: December 28, 2010 in Evidence Material
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Posted: 28 December 2010

Brother of murdered British woman to mount 24-hour “Twitter-a-thon”

Ten years after the killing of 21 people – including British woman Charlotte Wilson – travelling on the Titanic Express bus in Burundi, Amnesty International and the Wilson family are today urging the Burundian government to provide justice for the families of those killed in the country’s civil war.

The Titanic Express was attacked on its way from the Rwandan capital, Kigali, to Burundi’s capital city ten years ago today. Those onboard were separated according to their ethnicity. Hutus were released, while Tutsi passengers and 27-year-old British aid worker Charlotte Wilson were killed. The Burundian authorities and other organisations have attributed responsibility to the armed opposition group Palipehutu-National Liberation Forces (Palipehutu-FNL). The FNL denies involvement. Ten years on, no one has been brought to justice.

The family of Charlotte Wilson has been fighting for justice for the murder of Charlotte and the other passengers onboard the Titanic Express for the past decade. Recently the Wilsons wrote to Foreign Secretary William Hague urging him to press the Burundian government to fulfil its obligations to the families of victims who were caught up in the conflict.

Richard Wilson – brother of Charlotte, author and human rights activist – said:

“Despite repeated promises from Burundi’s government, no serious effort has been made to deliver justice for the 21 victims of the Titanic Express massacre. Tragically, those responsible for Charlotte’s murder have killed many more innocent people over the last ten years, while countless others have died in reprisal attacks, highlighting the deadly consequences of Burundi’s culture of impunity. The Burundians we know tell us that justice can help end the cycle of violence.

“In solidarity with all those who have lost loved ones in this brutal conflict, my family calls on President Nkurunziza to honour the memory of the victims, and move swiftly to establish the Special Chamber and TRC.”

Richard Wilson will mount a 24-hour “Twitter-a-thon” on 28 December starting at 1.30pm to highlight the ongoing abuses in Burundi, and to call for more action to be taken to provide justice for the victims

The Titanic Express massacre was only one in a series of mass killings during the Burundian civil war, which started in 1993. Thousands were killed during the conflict, in which all sides were responsible for serious violations of international humanitarian and human rights law. So far there has been an absence of justice for these past abuses.

Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:

“It’s time for the Burundian government to stop dragging its feet on delivering justice for the victims of this country’s civil war.

“The government must set up a Special Tribunal and a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate and prosecute those responsible for these crimes.  Both mechanisms are necessary to bring to account those responsible for the violations which occurred before and during this war.”

The Burundian government and the United Nations have been negotiating since 2006 over setting up the Special Tribunal and the TRC based on plans first agreed in the Arusha Peace Accord of 2000.

National consultations indicate strong support across Burundi for these mechanisms.  Burundi’s President was officially presented with the report from the national consultations in November 2010. The delay in presenting the report, completed in 2009, was a stumbling block in creating the Special Tribunal and TRC.

Meanwhile, some Burundian government officials have expressed support for an amnesty for crimes against humanity if the accountability mechanisms are established.

Kate Allen continued:

“The crimes that occurred during Burundi’s civil war were extremely grave. The government must respect international law and ensure that no amnesty is passed for these crimes. Instead all perpetrators must be investigated, charged and quickly brought before a court for a fair trial.

“Only by the authorities holding perpetrators of these awful crimes to account can the people of Burundi really move on from this tragic chapter in their history.”

Amnesty is calling on the Burundian government to establish the Special Tribunal, and ensure that it is mandated to independently investigate and prosecute serious human rights violations without prior referral from the TRC.

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