Photographer: Carl de Souza/AFP/Getty Images

Satellite Images Show Burundi Used Mass Graves, Amnesty Says

  • Photos corroborate witness testimony on December violence
  • Images suggest 'deliberate' cover-up attempt by authorities

Satellite images from late December and early January indicate that Burundian security forces killed dozens of people and dumped them in mass graves on the outskirts of the capital, according to Amnesty International.

The photographs are consistent with the testimony of witnesses who said that graves were dug Dec. 11 after heavy fighting erupted when gunmen attacked military camps in Bujumbura, the London-based group said Friday. At least 154 people died in that bout of violence, the Paris-based Worldwide Movement for Human Rights and Ligue Iteka, a local group, said that month.

“These images suggest a deliberate effort by the authorities to cover up the extent of the killings by their security forces and to prevent the full truth from coming out,” Muthoni Wanyeki, Amnesty International’s regional director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes, said in an e-mailed statement. Government spokesman Willy Nyamitwe didn’t answer calls and a text message seeking comment on the report.

Political Violence

Burundi has been suffering a wave of political violence since April over President Pierre Nkurunziza’s decision to serve a third term. The United Nations has warned the country risks sliding back into a civil conflict that could spill over into a region that includes the Democratic Republic of Congo, Africa’s biggest copper producer.

Amnesty said its researchers interviewed a woman whose son had been shot in the head and his body left in the street before a truck from the mayor’s office took it away. “I don’t know where he is or if he’s been buried,” she told Amnesty’s researchers.

The UN said this week that a group of experts scheduled to arrive in Burundi to investigate alleged human rights abuses in the December outbreak of violence had been denied visas.

Landlocked Burundi, one of the world’s poorest nations, holds 6 percent of the world’s nickel reserves, which remain largely unexploited. It’s a member of the East African Community, a five-nation block with a combined gross domestic product of $147.5 billion.

Police seized weapons on Thursday and arrested 15 people in the capital’s Nyakabiga area, deputy police spokesman Moise Nkurunziza told national radio and television. Two foreign journalists, Le Monde correspondent Jean Philippe Remy and British photographer Phil Moore, were also detained during the search, he said. The two men were released on Friday, according to a statement by the Foreign Correspondents’ Association of East Africa.

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