Victims' families demand justice ten years after massacre in Burundi

By staff writers
January 1, 2011

Ten years after the killing of 21 people on a bus in Burundi, Amnesty International and victims' families are urging the Burundian government to provide justice for those killed in the country's civil war.

The 21 people murdered on a bus called the Titanic Express included 27-year-old British aid worker Charlotte Wilson. Her brother Richard has spent a decade seeking to expose the facts behind the case, as well as campaigning more widely on issues of human rights and the arms trade.

The Titanic Express was attacked on its way from the Rwandan capital, Kigali, to Burundi’s capital city on 28 December 2000. Those on board were separated, with Hutus released, while Tutsi passengers and Charlotte Wilson were killed.

The Burundian authorities and other organisations have attributed responsibility to the armed opposition group Palipehutu-National Liberation Forces (Palipehutu-FNL). The FNL denies involvement. Ten years on, no-one has been charged.
Recently the Wilsons wrote to UK Foreign Secretary William Hague urging him to press the Burundian government to fulfil its obligations to the families of victims who were caught up in the conflict.
“Despite repeated promises from Burundi’s government, no serious effort has been made to deliver justice for the 21 victims of the Titanic Express massacre,” said Richard Wilson last week, “Tragically, those responsible for Charlotte’s murder have killed many more innocent people over the last ten years, while countless others have died in reprisal attacks”.

He added, ““In solidarity with all those who have lost loved ones in this brutal conflict, my family calls on President Nkurunziza to honour the memory of the victims, and move swiftly”.

On the tenth anniversary of the incident last week, Wilson mounted a 24-hour “Twitter-a-thon” to highlight the ongoing abuses in Burundi and to call for action for justice.

The Titanic Express massacre was only one in a series of mass killings during the Burundian civil war, which started in 1993. Thousands were killed during the conflict, in which all sides said to be responsible for serious violations of international humanitarian and human rights law.

Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen accused the Burundian government of “dragging its feet”.

“The government must set up a Special Tribunal and a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate and prosecute those responsible for these crimes,” said Allen, “Both mechanisms are necessary to bring to account those responsible for the violations which occurred before and during this war.”
Amnesty say that there is widespread support for these mechanisms in Burundi.


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