Marie-Claudette Kwizera, a Burundian human rights activist and treasurer of Ligue Iteka, has been missing since 10 December, 2015, and, according to the new information received by the United Nations Commission in charge of investigating the situation in Burundi, is believed to have been executed.
The Ligue Iteka, organisation which Kwizera joined when she was still in secondary school, is a Burundian human rights organisation founded in February 1991 whose primary mission is “the promotion and the defence of human rights as well as preventing the violation of human rights”. Throughout periods of political crisis in Burundi, the Ligue Iteka has set itself apart through its consistent commitment to thoroughly monitoring and denouncing human rights violations.
Since 2013, there has been an increasingly hostile environment towards civil society actors in Burundi, affecting in particular human rights defenders and journalists. The crackdown on civil society, which intensified in the lead up to the 2015 elections, heightened the vulnerability of human rights defenders and independent journalists. They have since been more exposed to targeted killings, abductions and violent attacks.
On 10 December, 2015, Marie-Claudette Kwizera was picked up and driven away in a vehicle with tinted windows thought to belong to the National Intelligence Service (SNR). Two days later, on 12 December, 2015, a SNR agent called Kwizera’s family to say that she was detained at the SNR’s office and ask for 3.5 million Burundian francs (about 2000 USD) as ransom. Despite paying the ransom, Kwizera’s family was never informed of her whereabouts or even if she was still alive up until recently, when the United Nations Commission published a report about the situation on Burundi.
The Commission says the information received indicates Kwizera was driven to a local SNR office before being taken to another location to be executed.
The Commission also confirmed an aggravation of restrictions on civil liberties in 2018 and 2019, anyone who is suspected of not supporting the ruling party is at risk.
Ligue Iteka itself was disbanded by ministerial decree on 3 January, 2017, accused of being “a repeat offender in tarnishing the brand image of the country and of sowing hate and division amongst the Burundi population”.