SAR’s Academic Freedom Monitoring Project investigates and reports attacks on higher education with the aim of raising awareness, generating advocacy, and increasing protection for scholars, students, and academic communities. Learn more.

Date of Incident: June 13, 2013

Attack Types: Imprisonment

Institution(s):University of Burundi

Region & Country:Eastern Africa | Burundi

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On June 13, 2013 Ignace Bankamwamo, Professor of Law at the University of Burundi and a former government minister, was secretly detained by the National Intelligence Service on charges of breaching national security.
Three days later, the intelligence agency confirmed the arrest and charges against Professor Bankamwamo, together with Lucien Rukevya, a journalist at the National Radio and Television of Burundi. The confirmation came after pressure from the Burundi Association of Journalists (UBJ), whose members discovered that Rukevya, who had been previously reported missing, was in fact being held by the intelligence agency.
According to reports, Professor Bankamwamo spent the first 24 hours of detention in a secret prison run by a branch of the intelligence services that answers directly to the presidency. His attorney stated to media that after Professor Bankamwamo’s arrest, he had been interrogated overnight and denied access to an attorney or to his family.
According to government officials, Professor Bankamwamo was arrested because his name appeared on an incriminating document in the possession of two Congolese nationals suspected of working with the M23 rebel group in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The document allegedly contained the names of individuals providing financial support to the rebellion.
On June 26, 2013, the Attorney General of Bujumbura announced that Professor Bankamwamo had been released on bail on June 24. The Intelligence Service reportedly stated that they did not find any evidence against the detained. However, as of time of reporting, he is still under investigation and required to report to the authorities every week. 
Scholars at Risk is concerned about arbitrary imprisonment and prosecution of scholars. In addition to the harm to the immediate victim, such incidents have a chilling effect on academic freedom and undermine democratic society generally. State authorities have a responsibility to refrain from arbitrary arrests and prosecution of scholars and to hold perpetrators accountable.