An IBJ Burundi initiated radio program has been set on air. It is funded by Matrix Chambers and created in partnership with Bonesha FM and Isanganiro. These are private and independent radio channels aiming at promoting reconciliation and committed to improve Burundi’s justice system. They have earlier covered IBJ’s roundtable discussions in the country’s provinces with different stakeholders in the criminal justice system.
The IBJ program was first broadcast on December 2nd and will be held every Friday for eleven weeks. Using the radio is the best way to reach out to all parts of the country, and reaching out to many is exactly what IBJ Burundi aims for. The crucial task of raising awareness among the Burundian population of their legal rights is in focus. IBJ wants to provide the population the opportunity to share their experiences, air out their views and ask questions about their legal rights by calling to the radio program while invited speakers respond. These guests are people working in the criminal justice sector and they participate in order to answer questions and discuss accurate issues.
Invited to sit in front of the microphones last Friday was a lawyer and the spokesman of the Supreme Court as well as an IBJ legal aid lawyer. They were informing around the article in the Burundian Code on Criminal Procedure stipulating the conditions for how a legal pre-trial detention should be carried out. Every citizen’s right to legal counsel was mentioned and there was a focus on the possibilities for prison directors to seek permission from the prosecutor to free accused when the time limit of detention has been passed, a legal option that has never really been used in Burundi. There was as well a change of words on the ability to put sanctions on police officers or prosecutors that do not respect the time limits of custody. People calling to the program this time had questions about legal procedures and the spokesman of the Supreme Court was answering willingly.
Apart from being able to call to the program, the number to the Burundi IBJ office is provided so that persons seeking redress of their legal rights can access free advice from IBJ legal aid lawyers.
More than raising awareness, what IBJ also has in mind is to show the importance of a permanent existing radio show on the rights of citizens. IBJ wishes the program to spark community interest and support for the issue of legal rights and prioritize the issue of criminal justice among the wider human rights debate. This far it is not yet possible to see results like that; it has just begun, but let us have hope for the near future.