Human Rights Watch's Alison Des Forges Award celebrates the valor of individuals who put their lives on the line to protect the dignity and rights of others. Human Rights Watch collaborates with these courageous activists to create a world in which people live free of violence, discrimination, and oppression.

© 2014 Teddy Mazina

Pierre Claver Mbonimpa has shown tireless dedication to the human rights cause as one of Burundi’s most prominent human rights activists and founder of the Association for the Protection of Human Rights and Detained Persons (APRODH). A former police officer, Mbonimpa founded APRODH in 2001, after spending two years in prison in the mid-1990s on trumped-up charges of possessing an illegal weapon. He has made countless appeals and personal interventions on behalf of people who have been wrongly imprisoned, and was himself imprisoned again in 2014, after speaking out against various abuses. Mbonimpa leads APRODH’s documentation and advocacy on a wide range of abuses, including attacks on human rights defenders, opposition party members, and journalists; political killings; enforced disappearances; unlawful detention; and torture. 

Pierre Claver Mbonimpa is Burundi’s best-known human rights defender, a man of extraordinary courage who has defied repeated threats to defend victims of abuse, and almost paid for it with his life.

Carina Tertsakian

Senior Researcher, Africa division

Mbonimpa’s work has made him a target. In 2015, he narrowly escaped an assassination attempt, believed to be carried out by Burundi’s intelligence services. The attack – and the subsequent killings of his son and son-in-law – came as Burundi spiraled deeper into a political and human rights crisis triggered by President Pierre Nkurunziza’s decision to stand for a controversial third term in office. Following the attempt on his life, Mbonimpa was evacuated to Europe for medical treatment. He has gradually regained his strength and continues to campaign from exile in Belgium for the rights of all Burundians.

Human Rights Watch honors Pierre Claver Mbonimpa for his extraordinary courage as a human rights activist in the face of the brutal crackdown on freedom of expression in Burundi.