9 September 2014
Bujumbura (Burundi), 10 September 2014 – Avocats Sans Frontières (ASF) calls on the Burundian justice system to put an end to the many irregularities which have been blocking progress for over a year in the Ernest Manirumva murder case. This call follows the fifth postponement on 4 September of the Burundi Supreme Court hearing to review this landmark case. While this trial continues to be bogged down before the highest court in the country, the family of Ernest Manirumva, a great defender of human rights, and the NGO where he worked, the Anti-corruption and Economic Malpractice Observatory (OLUCOME), are persevering in their pursuit of justice.
The murder of Ernest Manirumva on 9 April 2009 has resulted in one of the most closely followed trials in Burundi in recent years. The initial judgment of the Higher Instance Court of Bujumbura in May 2012 has been heavily criticised by both Burundian civil society and by the defendants and civil parties. All then agreed to request additional enquiries in order to identify the real perpetrators of the crime. The judgment handed down in January 2013 did not meet these expectations. Therefore the civil parties as well as some defendants filed an appeal with the Supreme Court in June 2013.
However, since November 2013 the case has been fixed for a public hearing by the Burundi Supreme Court of Justice on no less than five occasions, which have all been postponed to date. The Court has systematically neglected efforts to ensure that the hearings were properly prepared and to allow all the parties concerned to be present. The most recent public hearing last week suffered the same fate.
“These procedural irregularities which are preventing the case from taking its normal course are increasing”, notes Céline Lemmel, ASF Head of Mission in Burundi, adding that “courts must prepare hearings in such a way that justice is delivered fairly, both for victims and defendants, and within reasonable timeframes”.
After more than five years of legal proceedings, the civil parties to the Manirumva trial are becoming impatient for justice. “The appeal pending before the Supreme Court is crucial. It is aimed at examining a series of unsatisfactory elements identified in the context of the appeal, such as the lack of fairness in the proceedings for the civil parties and the lack of motivation of the Court in relation to the denial of their requests”, notes the ASF Head of Mission.
The issues relating to the Manirumva trial are important not only for the parties to the proceedings, but also for human rights defenders who are continuing their work in Burundi and who are impatiently awaiting the responses of the Burundian judicial system. That is why ASF is calling on the Burundian judicial authorities to put an end to the recurring delays and the irregularities in the review of this case; it is important that the next public hearing is well-managed, in strict compliance with the duty of care towards all the parties to the trial.