Amnesty International appeals to African leaders attending AU Summit in Ethiopia to intervene
By Hassan Isilow
JOHANNESBURG – Amnesty International said Friday that new satellite images and witness accounts indicated dozens of people reportedly killed by Burundian security forces in December were possibly buried in five mass graves on the outskirts of the capital Bujumbura.
Witnesses told Amnesty International that the graves were dug on the afternoon of Dec. 11, in Buringa on the outskirts of the capital Bujumbura, after the worst day of violence in the country.
The rights group said images and video footage obtained late December and early January, showed disturbed soil, which is consistent with testimonies they reportedly obtained from witnesses.
“These images suggest a deliberate effort by the authorities to cover up the extent of the killings by their security forces and to prevent the full truth from coming out,” Lynne Muthoni Wanyeki, Amnesty International’s East Africa regional director, the Horn and the Great Lakes said in a statement emailed to Anadolu Agency.
Amnesty further said its researchers were present in the Burundian capital Bujumbura when the killings occurred and had visited affected neighborhoods.
“Researchers found large pools of blood where some of the victims had been killed but their bodies had been removed,” the statement said.
The rights group said witnesses described how police and local officials scoured various neighborhoods to retrieve bodies of those killed by security forces and took them to undisclosed locations.
“Local sources reported that 25 bodies were buried in five graves at the Mpanda site, and 28 bodies were buried in four graves at the Kanyosha site. It is not known how many bodies might be found at other sites.” Amnesty said.
The human rights watch dog also quoted a mother of a 15-year-old boy who was shot dead as he ran for refuge. She said his body was also taken by men driving a government vehicle.
The rights group is now appealing to African leaders attending the 26th African Union Summit in Ethiopia to urge the Burundian government to grant international investigators access to all suspected grave sites.
Amnesty said investigators should be allowed to launch an immediate, independent and impartial investigation into the killings.
Conflicts broke out in Burundi in 2015 after President Pierre Nkurunziza decided to run for a third term leading to clashes between opposition supporters and security forces.
According to the UN, at least 3,496 people have been arrested in relation to the political crisis in the country.