BUJUMBURA January 11th (ABP) – The National Independent Human Rights Commission (CNIDH) held a press conference on Friday under the theme: “Exercise of the right to freedom of association: a right and not a duty”.

CNIDH president Sixte Vigny Nimuraba explained that this media outing was motivated by the fact that this commission continues to receive complaints from certain teachers that they are forced to join the Special Coalition of teachers’ unions for national solidarity, COSSESONA.

For that, the Chairman of the CNIDH recalled that freedom of association is a right and not a duty. He noted that freedom of association is a right to form, join or refuse to join an association.

Sixte Vigny Nimuraba recalled that unions are associations whose aim is to defend “professional rights of workers and employers”.

He also recalled that Burundi recognizes the right to organize through the international conventions it has signed and the internal laws in force in the country. “Membership in any association is free, the same is true for leaving”, according to him, adding “that there is no provision of law which compels individuals or a group of individuals to join an association by force”.

The Chairman of the CNIDH indicated that a team made up of 5 people: 3 commissioners and 2 executives of the CNIDH was formed to carry out investigations on this case and present a report within 7 days.

Asked whether the CNIDH would be informed that certain members of other teachers’ unions, other than COSSESONA, who had denounced this forced membership, had been arrested and imprisoned, the president of the CNIDH replied in the affirmative. It is for this reason, among other things, that a commission has been set up to investigate the reason behind the arrests and to see if the rights to freedom of association have been respected, he replied. “We gave this commission a deadline of 7 days because we take it seriously.”

To the question of what will happen to the case in the event that it turns out that COSSESONA would have received contributions from teachers without their approval but by a forced withdrawal from their account, the president of the CNIDH replied that the investigations will prove it. If so, he noted that the sum withdrawn will be returned to the teachers for compensation.

As for the question of what is being done by the CNIDH to decide on the cases of civil society organizations like PARCEM and others which have been suspended by the Ministry of the Interior, Sixte Vigny Nimuraba replied that the commission is aware, saying that the CNIDH “continues the steps to find out the real reasons for that decision. He added that the CNIDH is in contact with the representatives of those different organizations and is carrying out the necessary follow-up of that situation

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