Groups want Burundi to end ban on forum

Nov. 25, 2009 at 1:46 PM
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BUJUMBURA, Burundi, Nov. 25 (UPI) -- A trio of groups, including Human Rights Watch, said Wednesday Burundi should end a ban on the Forum for the Strengthening of Civil Society.

Human Rights Watch said in a news release it has joined with Amnesty International and the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project to urge the Burundi government to end an ordinance targeting the FORSC group representing 146 Burundian civil society associations.

"Burundi's ban on FORSC appears to have no real legal basis and is a frontal assault on freedom of association," HRW Africa director Georgette Gagnon said. "Along with the threats against two highly respected activists, this is a brazen attempt to silence Burundi's vibrant civil society."

Among the alleged acts of intimidation and harassment endured by FORSC members and other civil society groups was a threat from Interior Minister Nduwimana regarding such organizations' public efforts.

Hassan Shire, executive director of the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project, said the government should avoid the use of bans and instead work with civil society groups.

"Rather than abolish civil society groups, it should engage in a productive dialogue with them to improve conditions for all Burundians," Shire said.

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