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Burundian Campaigner for Justice, Pierre Claver Mbonimpa, Wins 2017 Civil Courage Prize
New York, NY — Pierre Claver Mbonimpa, one of Burundiís most prominent social justice activists and founder of the Association for the Protection of Human Rights and Detained Persons (APRODH), will receive the 18th annual Civil Courage Prize on October 18th.
The Train Foundation has awarded the prize, now $25,000, since 2000. Recipients have played leading roles in resisting evil and injustice at great personal risk. Andrew Gilmour, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights at the United Nations, will be the keynote speaker at the award ceremony.
Hailed as the "grandfather of the human rights movement" in Burundi, Mr. Mbonimpa is known for his impartial documentation and advocacy on a broad range of abuses, including attacks on opposition party members, journalists and human rights defenders; political killings; enforced disappearances; unlawful detention; and torture.
A former member of Burundi's police force, he spent two years in prison after being falsely accused of possessing an illegal weapon. While incarcerated, he witnessed the ill treatment of fellow inmates and educated himself about the law so as to assist in their hearings and appeals.
In 2015 Burundi's president, Pierre Nkurunziza, won a third term in office, in violation of the country's constitutional term limits. Western observers roundly criticized the election as rigged. Approximately 300,000 people fled Burundi amid the unrest that followed. In refugee camps in Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda, they face reprisals from wandering Burundian militias that have carried out targeted killings, according to news outlets, human rights groups and refugees.
In August 2015, after years of living with harassment, threats, surveillance, investigations, detentions and arrests, Mr. Mbonimpa barely survived a brutal assassination attempt and was evacuated to Belgium for medical treatment.
Within months, his son-in-law was killed, followed by the murder of his youngest son at the hands of the police. Still in a Belgian hospital, he was unable to attend his son's funeral. In a note to those attending the burial, he wrote: Do not lose courage. The tragedies we face will end with a resolution of the conflict. I maintain hope that it will come soon.
Over the past two years, the United Nations has documented hundreds of summary executions, assassinations, torture and other crimes. The Burundian government rejects the findings and has withdrawn from the International Criminal Court, the tribunal responsible for trying crimes against humanity.
Mr. Mbonimpa is committed to returning home to Burundi "no matter what the cost."
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