state of civil and political rights: Not free
constitution: 28 February 2005; ratified by popular referendum
legal system: based on German and Belgian civil codes and customary law
legislative system: bicameral Parliament or Parlement, consists of a National Assembly and a Senate
judicial system: Supreme Court; Constitutional Court; Courts of Appeal; Tribunals of First Instance
religion: Christian 67% (Roman Catholic 62%, Protestant 5%), indigenous beliefs 23%, Muslim 10%
year of last executions: 0-0-0
death sentences: 0
international treaties on human rights and the death penalty:
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
Convention on the Rights of the Child
Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
Statute of the International Criminal Court (which excludes the death penalty)
On April 22, 2009, Burundi's President Pierre Nkurunziza promulgated the new criminal code which abolishes the death penalty but makes homosexuality a crime punishable by jail.
The new criminal code also introduces laws against genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and torture which had previously been lacking.
Burundi, like its neighbour Rwanda, has seen several outbreaks of violence between the dominating minority Tutsi ethnic group and the majority Hutus since independence from Belgium in 1962, when it became an independent kingdom. Over 500,000 people died, and several hundred thousands were displaced in the depositions, assassinations, rebellions, massacres and coups that followed.
In 1993, Burundi held its first democratic elections, taking to power its first Hutu president, Melchior Ndadaye, and a parliament dominated by the Hutu Front for Democracy in Burundi (Frodebu) party. Within months however, Ndadaye was assassinated, and a decade of Hutu-Tutsi violence began. The next president, Hutu Cyprien Ntaryamira, was killed in a plane crash together with his Rwandan counterpart in 1994. Parliament then appointed as president speaker Sylvestre Ntibantunganya, who was deposed in 1996 by Tutsi leader Pierre Buyoya.
Regional leaders, at a summit on 31 July 1996, imposed sanctions on Burundi in an effort to bring the conflict to an end. The Arusha Peace Process was initiated by the late Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere, and facilitated by Nelson Mandela after Nyerere’s death in December 1999. Sanctions were suspended in January 1999 in recognition of progress made.
On August 28, 2000 a peace agreement was signed in Arusha, Tanzania, by nineteen parties including six of the rebel groups. Four rebel groups refused to sign. Three of these later signed ceasefires.
The Arusha Accord provides for a 36 month transition period during which a transitional government would undertake several security and stabilisation measures and prepare for national elections. A power-sharing transitional government was inaugurated on November 1, 2001.
As stipulated in the Accord, Buyoya, who had led the Government for the first 18 month period handed power to his Hutu Vice-President, Domitien Ndayizeye, on April 30, 2003 for the second 18 months of the transition.
In April 2003 Burundi's transitional national parliament also voted unanimously to recognise the statute of the International Criminal Court, the United Nation's permanent war crimes court.
In January 2005, a Truth and Reconciliation Commission was set up by presidential decree. The Commission was given an initial two-year mandate to investigate political crimes committed between 1962 and 2000.
One Hutu rebel group - the National Liberation Forces (FNL) led by Agathon Rwasa - remained active in Burundi at the start of 2005, operating in the outskirts of the capital Bujumbura. All the other Hutu rebel groups began a process of integration with the traditionally-Tutsi dominated army to form a new national army. Reform of the army was one of the key rebel demands during the peace process.
In March 2005, a new power-sharing constitution designed to satisfy both ethnic Hutu rebels and the Tutsi-led army was approved by popular vote in a referendum. Former Hutu rebel leader Pierre Nkurunziza was the sole candidate of presidential elections held in August 2005, the first democratic elections in the country since the start of the civil war.
On December 18, 2014,Burundi once again co-sponsored and voted in favour of the Resolution on a Moratorium on the Use of the Death Penalty at the UN General Assembly.
However, on 19 December 2016, Burundi changed position and voted against the Resolution.