The Burundi Policy Reform Program, requested a consultant from its subcontractor, BlueLaw International, to undertake an assessment and programmatic recommendations for implementation of the Victims of Torture Component. Highlights of the consultant’s scope of work include the following:
- Undertake an assessment and analysis of the institutional and management capacities of civil society organizations in Burundi that have programs for victims of torture.
- Recommend a program of sub-grants to bolster and enhance the institutional capacities of civil society organizations to provide services to victims of torture.
- Recommend ways to promulgate effective advocacy against torture at community and national levels.
- Recommend a contractual arrangement through local organizations to provide technical assistance to selected civil society organizations for effective management and delivery of VOT services along with along with increased capacities for advocacy against torture.
- Recommend two sites for study tours in other countries for representatives of Burundian organizations involved in services or advocacy related to torture. Provide visit objectives along with selection criteria for participants.
Burundi is recovering from 14 years of civil strife, armed rebellion and instability. Torture exists in the country and is perceived by the international community as a human rights issue for Burundi. The number of incidents of torture is not known, but indigent human rights organizations are aware of cases throughout the country. Within Burundi’s population there is a cultural acceptance that torture is tool of the powerful and people in uniform. Generally, acts of torture occur during arrests, during transport or while held in temporary lock-up. It rarely occurs in the prisons. Victims cannot, or will not, identify those who commit acts of torture. Normally, torture victims do not have access to medical assistance that can identify torture marks or scars, and perpetuators of torture undertake measures to cover-up or make physical evidence disappear.
Although Burundi is a signatory to the International Convention Against Torture (CAT), the country’s penal code does not include the crime of torture. Burundian judges have not considered torture a serious crime. Many cases are dismissed along with a few lenient sentences. Victims are rarely compensated. A revised penal code that includes torture as a serious crime has been drafted and is expected to become law in the near future.