Archive for November 20th, 2008
Amnesty International has added its voice to those highlighting the worsening human rights situation in Burundi – and in particular the arbitrary arrest of the journalist-turned-opposition activist Alexis Sinduhije. I met Alexis in person back in 2002, and he helped me enormously when I was researching Titanic Express. I’ve been following events closely since he was arrested earlier this month.
From Amnesty International:
UA 318/08 Arbitrary arrest/ prisoner of conscience
BURUNDI Alexis Sinduhije (m)
Alexis Sinduhije, the President of the Movement for Security and Democracy (Mouvement pour la Sécurité et la Démocratie, MSD), a political opposition group, was arrested on 3 November during a MSD party meeting. Thirty-six others were also arrested, but have since been released. Alexis Sinduhije is currently detained in Mpimba Central Prison in the capital, Bujumbura. He is a prisoner of conscience, held solely for expressing his political views.
The ruling party, the National Council for the Defence of Democracy – Forces for the Defence of Democracy, (Conseil national de défense et de la démocratie-Forces de défense et de la démocratie – CNDD-FDD), has recently denied opposition parties the right to peaceful assembly by preventing them from holding meetings without government authorization. Human rights monitors initially thought the arrests were made because the meeting had been held without authorization. The MSD had also had problems registering as a political party.
On 11 November, Alexis Sinduhije was brought before the deputy prosecutor at the Prosecutor’s office in Bujumbura. He was subsequently charged for showing “contempt for the Head of State” (“outrage au chef de l’etat”). The charges were based on documents seized during the arrests which were apparently critical of the President’s development policies. His file should go before the advisory chamber (chambre de conseil) within several days when the acting Judge will decide whether or not to grant him provisional release.
The arrest of Alexis Sinduhije has raised considerable concern amongst members of civil society and the international community about the protection of civil and political rights in Burundi. The United States, the European Union and the UK strongly condemned Alexis Sinduhije’s arrest. The CNDD-FDD has shown increasing intolerance towards political opponents, journalists and human rights defenders perceived as being critical towards them.
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send appeals to arrive as quickly as possible, in French, English or your own language:
- expressing grave concern that Alexis Sinduhije has been detained on a charge of“contempt for the Head of State”, simply for being critical of the President’s development policies;
- urging the authorities to release him immediately and unconditionally, as he is a prisoner of conscience, detained solely for exercising his right to freedom of expression;
- reminding the authorities that Burundi is a state party to both the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which guarantee the right to freedom of expression.
Président de la République
Présidence de la République
Boulevard de l’Uprona
Fax: +257 22 22 74 90
Salutation: Monsieur le Président/Excellence
Minister of Justice and Keeper of Seals
Monsieur Jean-Bosco Ndikumana
Ministre de la Justice et Garde des Sceaux
Ministère de la Justice et Garde des Sceaux
Fax: +257 22 21 86 10
Salutation: Monsieur le Ministre
Monsieur Yves Sahinguvu
Présidence de la République
Fax: +257 22 22 74 90
Salutation: Monsieur le Premier Vice-président/Excellence
The Prosecutor of the Republic
Monsieur Elyse Ndaye
Procureur Générale de la République
Fax : +257 22 25 88 44
Salutation: Monsieur le Procureur / Dear Procureur
COPIES TO: diplomatic representatives of Burundi accredited to your country.
PLEASE SEND APPEALS IMMEDIATELY. Check with the International Secretariat, or your section office, if sending appeals after 31 December 2008.
I have to admit mixed feelings about the apparent leak of the British National Party’s full membership list. It seems almost inevitable that publishing the addresses of 12,000 followers of this widely despised racist group is going to lead to some bigoted old fascist getting attacked in their home, and I tend to feel that there are better ways of dealing with the problem.
I also think there’s some truth in the argument that, within modern British culture, the BNP serves a symbolic purpose that far outweighs its real political significance – as a convenient symbol of everything that’s nasty, despicable, and archaic about our country – and that sometimes, perhaps especially for guilty white lefties like me, having a go at the BNP can just be a quick and easy way of defining one’s self as a good, modern, liberal-minded sort of person, without having to confront any of those messy, less-than-liberal psychological impulses that lurk within us all.
Equally, having grown up with the echoes of World War II continuing to resonate – my grandmother still has stories about narrowly escaping death in Nazi air raids – and having gone to school with people who openly bragged about supporting the BNP and its racist policies, it seems tempting to agree that we can’t afford to take any chances, and that anyone who backs this neo-fascist outfit deserves to be publicly vilified.
Either way, I’ve been morbidly fascinated by the list, and what it tells us about the political party that everyone loves to hate. A quick bit of number-crunching reveals that the most popular BNP first name is “John”, and the most common surname “Smith” – though “Peter Smith” appears to be the most common full name among BNP members, by my reckoning.
The top 45 BNP first names all appear to be men’s names (though “Colin” and “Darren” came in at a disappointing 24th and 27th place respectively), with men making up more than 75% of the BNP’s membership. The most common BNP women’s names were Julie, Susan and Patricia, and two thirds were a “Mrs” rather than a “Ms” or a “Miss”…
There are more BNP members in Leicester (409) than in the whole of London (316) – but the single most popular BNP postcode was Broxtowe NG16, in Greater Nottingham, with 57 closet racists peeping out from behind the net curtains.
The top ten most BNP-afflicted towns in the country appear to be: