International Case Law

G.N. v. Burundi Committee Against Torture (2017)

International law, Statutory rape or defilement

G.N., a mother, brought the action on behalf of her nine-year-old daughter, C.N.  A friend of the family, Captain D.K., was conducting night patrols and he stopped by the family home.  G.N.’s husband was not at home, so the Captain said he was going to leave and wanted to take C.N. with him home.  G.N. declined saying it was late, but when she returned to the kitchen to finish cooking the meal and then called for her daughter, she was no longer there.  Neighbors informed G.N. that she had left with D.K.  She looked for C.N., but did not see her.  The serviceman was a friend of the family.  She thought C.N. would soon return.  When G.N.’s husband returned home, she informed him that C.N. had not returned and he reassured her so they decided to wait.  C.N. returned home the next day.  G.N. eventually learned from C.N. that D.K. had taken her to his house, raped her, and, when she cried, threatened her with his firearm if she made any more noise.  He sent her to sleep with his own children and the next day gave her 500 Burundian francs (USD 0.30). He told her never to speak about the rape and threatened her and her mother if she revealed their secret.  However, a week after the incident, her mother persisted in asking C.N. because she could not stand up and said she had a stomach ache.  The victim’s father raised the issue with Captain D.K., who proposed an out of court settlement, which was rejected by G.N.  G.N. took C.N. for a medical examination, which confirmed the rape and she reported the rape to the military prosecutor’s department.  G.N. appealed to the domestic courts, which dismissed the case because of the ten-day period between the incident and reporting of it and the calmness and availability of the Captain.  After seeking domestic remedies with no action taken, G.N. appealed to the Committee submitting that her daughter was the victim of a violation of articles 2(1), 12, 13 and 14, read in conjunction with article 1 and, alternatively, with article 16 of the Convention.  The Committee found that the sexual abuse to which C.N. was subjected by an official of the State acting in his official capacity and the associated acts of intimidation fall within the scope of article 1 of the Convention.  The Committee also determined the investigation was not impartial, effective and prompt, contrary to articles 12 and 13 of the Convention.  It relied on the fact it was closed quickly and prosecutors did not seek additional evidence to pursue the case or arrest any other suspects, meaning the perpetrator of the rape has gone unpunished even though Burundi law provides that rape is punishable by life imprisonment when committed against a child under the age of 12.  As the child received no redress, the Committee also found that Burundi violated its obligations under article 14 of the Convention.  Finally, the Committee urged Burundi to: (1) promptly reopen an investigation; (2) provide reparation including compensation for the material and moral harm caused, restitution, rehabilitation, measures of satisfaction and a guarantee of non-repetition; (3) prevent threats/acts of violence against G.N. and C.N. for lodging the complaint; and (4) advise the Committee within 90 days of the steps taken.