- Juvénal Rududura, vice-president of the trade union of non-magistrate staff at the Department of Justice, was detained at the start of the year on charges of making false statements. He had alleged corruption at the Ministry of Justice. He was provisionally released on 8 July to await trial.
- Two prisoners of conscience – journalist Jean- Claude Kavumbagu and MSD president Alexis Sinduhije – were released in March. Jean-Claude Kavumbagu had been arrested on 11 September 2008 and charged with defamation. He alleged in an article that the cost of President Nkurunziza's trip to see the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics caused some civil servants' salaries to be paid late. Alexis Sinduhije had been detained on 3 November 2008 after holding a party meeting and charged with "contempt of the head of state".
Human rights defenders
The non-governmental anti-corruption organization OLUCOME reported regular phone threats.
- Ernest Manirumva, vice-president of OLUCOME, was stabbed to death by unidentified men at his home in Bujumbura on 8 April. Immediately prior to his death, he had been investigating police corruption, in particular that police officials were claiming salaries for posts that allegedly did not exist, as well as corruption in private companies. He had previously received several death threats. Investigations into his killing were slow, and the findings of three successive commissions of inquiry were not made public. Hilaire Ndayizamba, a prominent businessman, and two police officers were arrested on 15 October in connection with the murder.
- On 23 November, the Interior Minister revoked the registration of the Forum for the Strengthening of Civil Society (FORSC), an umbrella organization for Burundian civil society associations. The Minister later suspended the ordinance revoking the registration, but FORSC's legal status remained unclear at the end of the year. The clampdown followed increasing intimidation and harassment of, and threats against, civil society activists working on accountability, including calls for justice for the killing of Ernest Manirumva.
Justice system – judicial interference
The government and UN took steps to reform and strengthen the judicial system, including building and renovating magistrates' courts, training magistrates, addressing overcrowding in detention facilities and reducing the backlog of criminal cases. However, significant problems remained. Judges were sometimes put under pressure by the executive. The Ministry of Justice appointed magistrates without sufficient consultation with the Superior Council of the Magistracy. Corruption among and poor training of judges were also reported.
- A judge who presided over the trial of Alexis Sinduhije (see above) was kidnapped on 6 May. Four men in police uniform put a gun to his head and forced him into a car. They drove him to an undisclosed location where they beat him and accused him of receiving money from the MSD to influence the outcome of the trial. Before releasing him the same night they told him that he had three days to make a formal written statement admitting he had received money.
- The Burundian magistrates' union SYMABU led a two-day strike in September to express their concerns over interference with the judiciary by the executive. This followed the suspension of three magistrates in Bujumbura in September for professional misconduct after they acquitted Gédéon Ntunzwenindavya, president of PA Amasekanya, a political party, on charges of threatening state security.
Law No.1/05 revising the Criminal Code came into force on 22 April. It abolished the death penalty and established the crimes of torture, genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. It also reinforced penalties for physical and sexual violence against women and raised the age of criminal responsibility to 15. However, Article 567 criminalizes same-sex relations and could lead to the persecution of Burundi's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. In response to pressure from some quarters, the government organized a large demonstration in Bujumbura on 6 March to protest against the Senate's initial decision to exclude Article 567.