(GIN) – An international award for civil courage despite extreme personal risk will be given this year to Pierre Claver Mbonimpa of Burundi in a ceremony in New York.
Mr. Mbonimpa has documented and taken action on a wide range of abuses, including attacks on members of the opposition, journalists and human rights defenders; political killings, enforced disappearances; unlawful detention and torture.
While imprisoned in Burundi for two years on trumped-up charges of possessing an illegal weapon, Mr. Mbonimpa witnessed the ill treatment of fellow inmates and decided to educate himself about the law, enabling him to make countless appeals and personal interventions on behalf of people wrongly imprisoned.
He founded an organization – the Association for the Protection of Human Rights and Detained Persons – which has been active in documentation and advocacy.
In 2015, Mr. Mbonimpa narrowly escaped an assassination attempt, believed to be carried out by Burundi’s intelligence services. The attack – and the subsequent killings of his son and son-in-law – came as Burundi spiraled deeper into a political and human rights crisis triggered by President Pierre Nkurunziza’s decision to stand for a controversial third term in office.
Following the attempt on his life, Mbonimpa was evacuated to Europe for medical treatment. He has gradually regained his strength and continues to campaign from exile in Belgium for the rights of all Burundians.
The award, sponsored by the Train Foundation, established by John Train in 1987,is in the amount of $25,000. Andrew Gilmour, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights at the United Nations, will be the keynote speaker at the award ceremony. w/pix of P. C. Mbonimpa