Irrgang welcomes freeing of Burundi opposition leader

13 March 2009

Irrgang welcomes freeing of Burundi opposition leader

SP Member of Parliament Ewout Irrgang says he is "very pleased" by the freeing of the Burundian journalist and opposition leader Alexis Sinduhije. In Irrgang's view, this is a sign that the international community can successfully exercise pressure on dubious regimes.

In Burundi, critics of the government continue to be imprisoned in large numbers. One of these critics is Alexis Sinduhije, journalist and at the same time leader of the opposition party the Movement for Security and Democracy (MSD). On 3rd November, 2008, he was arrested on suspicion of insulting the president. Later in that month, Irrgang asked the Dutch Development Minister for his response to this arrest, arguing that the government should revise its policy on development aid to Burundi on the grounds that the country's authorities was guilty of too many human rights abuses to justify continuing budgetary support without conditions.

Irrgang sees the freeing of Sinduhije as hopeful, but remains extremely critical. "The Netherlands is giving development aid to the Burundian government unconditionally," Irrgang says. "Development Minister Bert Koenders is still saying that he hopes, by means of this aid, to be able to continue a political dialogue with Burundi. But if practice demonstrates that human rights abuses continue to occur, then this clearly isn't working."

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