Following up on the resounding success of Bubanza roundtable in late July 2009, a new roundtable discussion on the theme of pre-trial detention has been conducted, last week, at Gitega, the country’s second largest city. Similarly to Bubanza, Gitega prison struggles with overcrowding: while the official capacity is 400, 1504 prisoners are currently held within the walls of the prison. The Penitentiary Administration reports that, as of September 15th, 43% of these detainees are awaiting trial.
On October 15th, lawyers, magistrates, prosecutors, police officers and prison officials joined forces to explore concrete ways in which criminal procedures could be upheld, so as to reduce pre-trial detention. Participants courageously committed to alleviate the situation of Gitega prison: with the support of magistrates and prison officials, a group of lawyers will work at expediting the trials of pregnant women, girls and juveniles, who have been kept on remand beyond the legally-specified time period.
Bujumbura-based Isanganiro radio (which means “meeting point” in Kirundi) sent a journalist to cover the event and later related the news during its daily news program. 3 minutes of the 13-minutes program were dedicated to raise the attention on the country’s alarming prison overpopulation rate, listing the challenges relating to pre-trial detention and reminding of key criminal procedure provisions. The program concluded with highlights of the concrete commitments and plan of action agreed as a result of the roundtable.This coverage brings the light on a fundamental legal right too few Burundian citizens are aware of.
To listen to the radio program in French, please click here.
(Please note that the part dealing specifically with IBJ roundtable starts around minute 10).