A court in Burundi has indicted 24 people for “homosexual practices” at a time when authorities in the conservative East African country crack down on same-sex relationships. Burundi has criminalized homosexuality since 2009 and has prison sentences of up to two years for consensual same-sex sexual acts. Police arrested 17 men and seven women on February 23 at a seminar organized by MUCO Burundi, a non-profit organization that focuses on HIV/AIDS. The detainees were charged with promoting homosexuality and engaging in same-sex sexual acts, both of which are punishable by imprisonment under Burundian law.
After interrogations that lasted about ten days, the prosecutor charged the 24 with homosexual practices and incitement to homosexual practices. They will be remanded in custody pending trial, said Armel Niyongere, director of the human rights group ACAT Burundi, who has been living in exile in Belgium since 2014.
Burundi’s criminalization of homosexuality has been criticized by human rights advocates. Human Rights Watch reported in 2019 that Burundian authorities had used the law to arrest and prosecute LGBTQ+ people.
Discrimination against LGBTQ+ people in Burundi is common, and LGBTQ+ people face violence and harassment. In addition, the human rights situation in Burundi has deteriorated significantly in recent years, with government repression against critics of the government, civil society, and independent media. In 2018, Burundi became the first country to withdraw from the International Criminal Court, and the UN has expressed concern about political violence and repression in the country.
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