2017 Civil Courage Prize Honoree
Pierre Claver Mbonimpa Pierre Claver Mbonimpa is the winner of the 2017 Civil Courage Prize. Hailed as the "grandfather of the human rights movement" in Burundi, Mbonimpa has acted with integrity, determination and courage to stand against the violence and injustice in his country. Falsely accused and incarcerated for possession of an illegal weapon in 1994 (an arrest thought to be politically motivated), he spent two years in prison where he was beaten and starved, and witnessed how badly other inmates were treated. He educated himself about the law and helped prisoners petition for their hearings, eventually founding APRODH (the Association for the Protection of Prisoners and Human Rights).
APRODH worked to end long delays in the judicial process, helped juvenile detainees, assisted rape victims in obtaining care and legal representation, provided lawyers to destitute offenders and helped obtain the release of hundreds of falsely accused prisoners. They also mediated land conflicts in a country rife with them, documented government abuses, including attacks on human rights workers, opposition politicians and journalists, and exposed "disappearances," illegal detention and torture.
In August of 2015, Mbonimpa barely survived a brutal assassination attempt, and had to be taken to Belgium for medical treatment, where he remains to this day. Within months, his daughter fled after receiving death threats, her husband was killed, and police shot and killed his youngest son.
Recently, the Burundian government revoked APRODH's license. Mbonimpa is committed to returning home, and until he can, he has vowed to continue to speak out against the ever-worsening violence and turmoil that has consumed Burundi. He is determined to make the international community aware of the escalating human rights violations in his homeland.
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Amb. Dawn Liberi, Pierre Claver Mbonimpa
Left to right: George Biddle, Musa Klebnikov, Ariadne Calvo-Platero, Amb. Edward Streator, Pierre Claver Mbonimpa, The Hon. John Train, Amb. Nicholas Platt