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Burundi: freedom of speech rewarded with arrest

Burundi - expressing freedom of speech rewarded with arrest

Brussels (ICFTU Online): Following the arrest of two senior Burundi trade union leaders on 24th September 2004, the ICFTU addressed the country's President to urge for their immediate and unconditional release.

Pierre Claver Hajayandi and Célestin Nsavyimana, President and Treasurer of the Confederation of Burundi's Labour Unions (COSYBU) respectively, were arrested around midday on Friday. Police had earlier come to the union's headquarters and asked Hajayandi to accompany them, which he refused on the grounds that they had no official arrest warrant. Police then returned at 13:00 hrs, detained both union leaders and seized the union's computer hard disk. The arrests closely followed the leaders' address before workers in a meeting during which they reportedly criticised government plans to submit a new draft constitution to a national referendum

The ICFTU pointed out that in arresting Hajayandi and Nsavyimana, the Burundi government was contravening human rights and trade union rights, including the right to free speech, and curtailing the trade union organisation's freedom to analyse national political developments.

Due to be the subject of a referendum on 20th October 2004, the Burundi draft constitution has been strongly criticised for its content - including a clause which guarantees the legitimacy of the current government even when its official mandate has expired.

In addition to its appeal to the Burundi President, the ICFTU called on the International Labour Organisation's (ILO) to urgently intervene in this case and help secure the release of the two detainees.

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Link to ICFTU letter addressed to Burundi President Domitien Ndayizeye (French original): http://www.icftu.org/displaydocument.asp?Index=991220570&Language=FR

Link to ICFTU letter sent to ILO Director General Juan Somavia (French original): http://www.icftu.org/displaydocument.asp?Index=991220569&Language=FR

The ICFTU represents 148 million workers in 234 affiliated organisations in 152 countries and territories. ICFTU is also a member of Global Unions: http://www.global-unions.org

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