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Burundi refugees disappeared, tortured in Tanzania: HRW

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Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Monday accused Tanzania’s police of gravely abusing at least 18 Burundian refugees and asylum seekers since 2019 after arresting them.

“Tanzanian authorities’ enforced disappearances of Burundian refugees and asylum seekers in Tanzania are heinous crimes, not least because of the anguish and suffering caused to family members, many of whom fled similar abuses in Burundi,” Mausi Segum, executive director of Human Rights Watch’s Africa Division, was quoted as saying in a new report by HRW.

“The Tanzanian government should urgently and impartially investigate allegations that Burundians have been abducted, tortured and illegally handed over to Burundian authorities and ensure that those responsible are held to account,” said Segum.

“All the cases documented indicate that Tanzanian authorities were involved in the enforced disappearances,” said the rights group’s report.

“Nine of the victims said they were held incommunicado for up to several weeks at Kibondo police station and that their families were not informed of their whereabouts,” it noted.

“Tanzanian intelligence agents or police interrogated detainees about alleged affiliation with armed groups and possession of weapons, their activities in the camp, and in some cases asked for money to release them,” HRW added.

Regarding the circumstances of the detentions, HRW cited Burundians as saying that Tanzanian police detained the victims “in rooms with no electricity or windows, took them to a separate building on the police station grounds, and hanged them from the ceiling by their handcuffs.”

“Some said that police and intelligence agents gave them electric shocks, rubbed their faces and genitals with chili, and beat and whipped them. In some cases, police and intelligence officers told them they had received information from Burundian authorities about them, suggesting collusion between agents from the two countries,” according to the report.

Tanzania is hosting over 150,000 Burundian refugees who live in camps as many of them fled violence in Burundi after then-President Pierre Nkurunziza’s decision to run for a disputed third term in 2015.

The Tanzanian government has been pushing the refugees to return back to Burundi, the report said.

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