Pierre Claver Mbonimpa
Before Mbonimpa founded the APRODH, he worked as a public servant to the Economy and Finance Ministry for Burundi. He then served as a police officer for the Air and Customs Police, while at this position he was wrongfully accused and arrested for possession of an illegal weapon, and served two years in the Prison Centrale of Mpimba from 1994-1996. During those two years of imprisonment, Mbonimpa was frequently tortured and beaten, and it was this experience that inspired him to form APRODH.
In 1995, after a year behind bars, he had the idea to create a non-profit organisation, and cooperating with two other inmates, they wrote the articles for Association for the Defence of the Rights of Prisoners. After viewing the effects of prison life, and its abuse of all races and ethnic groups, the association does not discriminate along these lines either, and works to protect the rights of all prisoners.
Human Rights Activism
Mbonimpa has created a multidimensional organisation APRODH, not only have they vigorously campaigned for the protection of the basic human rights of all prisoners, including the 9,000 or so people who have been awaiting trial for years in the over crowded prison system. They are also active in the prevention, of torture and sexual violence, as well as the protection of children in the criminal system.
Burundi does not have a juvenile detention/criminal system, and those above the age of 15 are tried as adults. Although legally children below this age limit should not be imprisoned, due to civil war and unrest, many become locked up anyway. At the Mpimpa prison male and female children cannot be held separately; this includes the children of the woman being held in the prison as well, most often after being born in the prison:
" There are also 24 babies and toddlers living in the jail, nearly all of whom were born inside. One prisoner tells the team that that some women are forced to have sex for money in order to survive, and become pregnant."
Mbonimpa has received many death threats for his stance and work on improving human rights, however he has not let that take away from his work in Burundi. He received the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders in 2007.
Arrest in 2014
On May 15, 2014, Pierre Claver Mbonimpa was arrested again in Bujumbura. After questioning, prosecuting officials charged him with endangering internal and external state security for remarks made on the radio 10 days earlier, and using false documents. The remarks and documents relate to allegations that young Burundians were being armed and sent for military training in neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo. The arrest is considered as harassment and repression of human rights activists by Human Rights Watch
- "Burundi: Boys Behind Bars: Local Heroes". May 13, 2011. Retrieved Dec 9, 2011.
- "Biography of Pierre Claver Mbonimpa". Retrieved Dec 9, 2011.
- "Human Rights Defenders from Sri Lanka and Burundi share 2007 Martin Ennals Award". May 4, 2007. Retrieved December 9, 2011.
- "Burundi: Boys Behind Bars, Episode 6". May 13, 2011. Retrieved Dec 9, 2011.
- "Burundi: Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights". September 2011. Retrieved December 14, 2011.
- When Pierre Claver Mbonimpa is Jailed, All Burundians Are At Risk, Human Rights Watch, June 3, 2014