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Paying the Price: Violations of the Rights of Children in Detention in Burundi

NCJ Number
Date Published
March 2007
66 pages
Based on a study conducted by Human Rights Watch researchers between May 2006 and February 2007, this paper reports on human rights violations against children in detention in Burundi.
At the end of 2006, just over 400 children between the ages of 13 and 18 were incarcerated in Burundian prisons. The majority of them were awaiting trial. Many more children were held in communal holding cells and police lockups pending possible transfer to the prisons. There is no juvenile justice system in Burundi. The age of criminal responsibility is 13. There are no alternatives to incarceration for children and no services to help children after they are released from prison. Prison conditions are deplorable for all inmates in Burundi. They lack adequate space, food, water, bedding, and sanitary facilities. Insufficient food and the lack of education programs particularly impact children. Children and adults in detention engage in activities together for most of the day, making children vulnerable to physical and sexual abuse by adult inmates. The Burundian national parliament is currently considering amendments to the criminal law that would improve conditions for children in detention. The amendments would raise the age of criminal responsibility to 15 years old and provide for alternatives to incarceration for all children. These amendments should be adopted and promptly implemented under adequate funding. Interviews were conducted with 112 children imprisoned in 10 of the 11 prisons in Burundi. Some parents of imprisoned children were also interviewed. In addition, researchers interviewed prosecutors, judges, and current and former members of the prison administration, as well as representatives of international agencies and local nongovernmental organizations that provide legal and medical assistance in Burundi. 8 tables