April 24, 2009

We, the undersigned Burundian and international human rights NGOs, urge the Burundian government to repeal Article 567 of the new Penal Code, which criminalizes consensual same-sex relations.

As part of the new criminal code, promulgated by President Pierre Nkurunziza on April 22, same-sex sexual conduct becomes illegal for the first time in Burundi's history. According to the law, "whoever has sexual relations with a person of the same sex is punished by a prison sentence of 3 months to 2 years and a fine of 50,000 to 100,000 francs, or one of these penalties."

We consider the law to violate the rights to privacy and freedom from discrimination protected by Burundi's Constitution and enshrined in its international treaty commitments, notably the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We deeply regret that the Burundian government has made a decision that writes human rights violations into law.

We regret that the law will hamper Burundi's attempts to fight AIDS, by further marginalizing an at-risk population.

We respectfully remind the Government of Burundi that according to the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, arrests on the basis of sexual orientation are, by definition, human rights violations. We will carefully monitor any arrests made on the basis of this law.

We urge the Government of Burundi to act promptly to decriminalize homosexual conduct.

Signed:

African Rights Activists Group; African Services Committee; Alliance Burundaise contre le SIDA; Alliance Rights Nigeria (ARN); Alternatives-Cameroun; Amnesty International; Arc-en-Ciel (Côte d'Ivoire); ARC International (Switzerland / Canada); Association Africaine Solidarité (Burkina Faso); Association Nationale de Soutien aux séropositifs et Malades du Sida (ANSS, Burundi); Changing Attitude Nigeria; Dignity Association (Sierra Leone); Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights; Foundation for Aids Research - Amfar; Friends of RAINKA (Zambia); Front Line - The International Foundation for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders; Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya (GALCK); Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ); Global Rights; Groupe de réflexion des homosexuelles du Burundi; Health Gap; Human Rights First; Human Rights Watch; ICJ Kenya; INCRESE Nigeria; International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC); International Women Health Coalition (IWHC); Intersex South Africa; Ishtar (Kenya); Joint Working Group (South Africa)*; Kenyan Human Rights Commission; Ligue Iteka (Burundi); Minority Women in Action (East Africa); Observatoire Ineza pour la Défense des Droits des Enfants (Burundi); Renaissance Santé Bouaké (Côte d'Ivoire); The Independent Project for Equal Rights (Nigeria); Sexual Minorities Against AIDS in Nigeria (SMAAN); and Transgender Education and Advocacy (Kenya).


* The Joint Working Group is a coalition of 26 South Africa-based human rights and faith organizations including: ACTIVATE Wits; Behind the Mask; Coalition of African Lesbians; D Gayle; Durban Lesbian and Gay Community and Health Centre; Engender; Forum for the Empowerment of Women (FEW); Gay and Lesbian Network; Gay and Lesbian Memory in Action (GALA); Gay Umbrella; Gender Dynamix; Glorious Light Metropolitan Community Church; Good Hope Metropolitan Community Church; Hope and Unity Metropolitan Community Church; Inclusive and Affirming Minstries (IAM); Jewish Outlook; Out in Africa Gay and Lesbian Film Festival; OUT LGBT Well-being; OutRhodes; Rainbow UCT; South African Youth Liberating Organisation (SAYLO); The Inner Circle; The Lesbian and Gay Equality Project (LGEP); Triangle Project; UNISA Centre for Applied Psychology; and XX/Y Flame.

More reporting on: