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TITLE: BURUNDI HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1994 AUTHOR: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DATE: FEBRUARY 1995 BURUNDI Burundi's first democratically elected Government retained power following an October 1993 coup attempt and the assassination of President Melchior Ndadaye, an ethnic Hutu. Effective authority was limited, however, since government confidence in the loyalty of the armed forces remained tenuous and officials hesitated to resume full duties, fearing for their personal safety, thus leaving their ministries to management by incumbent civil servants of the opposition parties. Several ministers received anonymous death threats. The assassinations of President Ndadaye, the President and Vice President of the National Assembly, and of other officials exhausted constitutional provisions for Presidential succession. In January a coalition consisting of the majority (predominantly Hutu) FRODEBU Party, the elected opposition (predominantly Tutsi) UPRONA Party, smaller political parties, religious, business, labor, human rights, and other civic leaders negotiated an agreement which installed majority party leader Cyprien Ntaryamira as President. The coalition's selection of Ntaryamira involved the grant of a number of power-sharing concessions to the opposition parties. The National Assembly passed a constitutional amendment allowing the Assembly to fill the presidential vacancy. On April 6, President Ntaryamira and Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana were killed in a suspicious crash of Habyarimana's airplane, which remains under investigation. Renewed presidential succession negotiations eventually concluded in October with the installation of Acting President Sylvestre Ntibantunganya to serve out the remainder of the presidential term running to 1998. These negotiations required further power-sharing concessions to the political opposition. Security forces consist of the army and gendarmerie under the Ministry of Defense, the judicial police under the Ministry of Justice, and the public security and documentation police forces under the Ministry of Interior. The high command of the Tutsi-dominated military professed loyalty to the elected Government and neutrality in political negotiations. However, in Bujumbura, it was not until August that the military acted quickly and professionally to end civil disturbances involving citizens of their own ethnicity. On several other occasions, military forces used excessive violence in government- sanctioned operations to disarm civilians, fired on unarmed civilians, including women and children, and engaged in burning abuses were isolated, uncondoned breaches of discipline and and looting of homes. Military authorities insisted these were corrected internally. Neither the armed forces nor the Government provided a public accounting of measures taken to punish those responsible for these excesses. However, at year's end, according to military sources, 100 military personnel were in prison facing general court martial for excesses against civilians, looting, involvement in the 1993 coup attempt, or other acts of indiscipline. Burundi is extremely poor and densely populated, with over four-fifths of the population engaged in subsistence agriculture. The small monetary economy is based largely on the export of coffee and tea. The severe disruptions and dislocations stemming from the October 1993 coup attempt increased the economic misery, as large numbers of internally displaced families were unable to produce their own food crops and had to depend largely on international humanitarian assistance. The Government made little progress in its efforts to privatize parastatal enterprises. The Burundi security forces and armed civilian groups committed serious human rights abuses, which the Government was largely unable to prevent. Perpetrators generally went unpunished. The most serious abuses involved actions by the armed forces, carried out in a climate of ethnic conflict. Serious incidents of ethnically motivated killing and destruction occurred in the Bujumbura region, where armed troops brutally killed armed and unarmed ethnic rivals, including women and the elderly. Both Hutu and Tutsi civilians in paramilitary, displaced, or vigilante youth groups also committed extrajudicial killings. The authorities made little or no progress in the investigations of extrajudicial killings and have neither tried nor punished any of the perpetrators. Government efforts to restore security were inadequate and mistrusted by Tutsis, particularly those gathered in displaced persons camps. Hutus often justifiably perceived the military to be the principal threat to their security, rather than its guarantor. Members of the armed forces and vigilante groups committed serious human rights violations with impunity. The lack of accountability for those responsible for the coup attempt, assassinations, and ethnic violence was universally recognized as a primary cause of public insecurity. The dysfunctional justice system could not satisfactorily address this problem due to its own inefficiency, administrative disruption, and public perception of its partiality. Legal and societal discrimination against women continues to be a serious problem. RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from: a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing In addition to extrajudicial killings by the armed forces, armed groups perpetrated unlawful, politically and ethnically motivated killings of that group's ethnic counterpart or political opponent. The armed forces frequently committed abuses in government-approved operations to disarm civilians. On March 1 soldiers attacked and killed 25 civilians, including women and the elderly, in the Kanyosha quarter south of the capital, according to resident witnesses who fled the attack. Soldiers also brutally killed 13 people taken into custody after they responded to military appeals for noncombatants to depart Kamenge. Their bodies were discovered discarded on the outskirts of Bujumbura, bearing bayonet wounds. Some had crushed skulls. On May 9 troops in pursuit of armed civilians killed 52 unarmed civilian residents in the nearby Gashorora region of rural Bujumbura province. Military authorities said they did not condone these abuses and therefore punished the perpetrators, but specific information about those arrested was not available. At the end of the year, no trials had begun. In July, military forces removed approximately 30 male refugees from a U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) transit point in Kabarore, Ngozi province, without prior notification to UNHCR. The group never returned and a mass grave for a similar number of persons was found across the provincial border. Also in July, men in military uniforms gathered approximately 45 refugees, mostly women and children, into a deserted church in Cendajeru, Ngozi, threw a grenade into the church and fired on those who survived the blast. The identity of the attackers is not known. These incidents received considerable international media attention. Hutu and Tutsi paramilitary and vigilante youth groups, in territorial conflict, stoned, beat, and stabbed to death members of the opposing ethnic group in Bujumbura. Gangs also waylaid buses, removing and killing passengers of opposite ethnicity. Buses later restricted their routes to communities of the driver's ethnicity. This reduced, but did not entirely eliminate, the attacks. In March a group of armed civilians in Kamenge abducted and killed an army officer. During August 7 and 8, an extremist Tutsi political leader incited Tutsi youth to create civil violence which included the murder of 11 people. Authorities failed to identify and prosecute the perpetrators. In June, according to UNHCR reports, civilians--with some degree of complicity by unidentified military forces--separated about 100 Rwandan Hutu refugees from their families near Kiri, in Kirundo province, removed them to another location, and killed them. Local military authorities obstructed investigation of a mass grave of approximately 100 bodies which was subsequently discovered near the site of the killings. One civilian was arrested; his case is currently under investigation. Three other suspects fled to Rwanda before being arrested. In two incidents during August and September, assailants threw grenades into the Bujumbura central market, killing and injuring several people. Police made arrests in both incidents but later released the suspects due to a lack of witnesses who were willing to testify. It was not clear whether the attacks were politically, personally, or criminally motivated. Increasingly in Bujumbura, all three elements, in varying degrees, motivated individual incidents of violence. In August gunmen attacked the Catholic Bishop of Muyinga at the altar while celebrating mass. When members of the congregation and clergy fled the church to the market, attackers armed with machetes killed 123; the Bishop escaped. One soldier was arrested and his case remains under investigation. A Hutu National Assembly member was shot in Bujumbura. Both Hutus and Tutsis have been accused of his murder, although an investigation in progress at the end of the year has yielded no suspects. Eight communal administrators, most of whom were Hutus, were killed in 1994. All eight murders were presumed to be politically motivated and investigations were pending. Police have made arrests in some but not all of these cases. Hutu governors in Bubanza and Kirundo were killed in political or ethnic attacks. Police killed one attacker in Kirundo. No arrest has been made in the Bubanza investigation. Investigations are also pending in the politically or ethnically motivated cases of an expatriate UNHCR field officer killed in an apparent attack on another Hutu communal administrator, attacks on a Hutu (wounded) and a Tutsi (unharmed) National Assembly member, and attacks on two more governors and several communal administrators, some of whom were wounded but who survived their attacks. b. Disappearance During separate incidents in August and September, six Tutsis, on legitimate business in the Kamenge quarter, disappeared and are presumed dead. Government investigations failed to identify the perpetrators of the violence since most witnesses either sympathize with the abductors or fear reprisals. c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment The Constitution prohibits these abuses but they occur in practice. Perpetrators of ethnic violence severely wounded women and children, using spears and machetes. Allegations of torture in prison made in May and June by international human rights organizations on behalf of several individuals charged with participation in ethnic violence were not substantiated. These charges were not made by the prisoners, some of whom did, however, report brutal mistreatment by civilian arresting forces before reaching the prison. While the Government claims that it does not condone such treatment, the authorities made no serious effort to address the problem. Prison conditions were life-threatening and characterized by severe overcrowding and inadequate hygiene, clothing, medical care, food, and water. Four or even five persons were forced to share a poorly ventilated cell 2 meters square. Prisoners had to rely on family members to ensure an adequate diet, and officials acknowledged that digestive illness was a major problem among the prisoners. Women were held separately from men. At least one prison death occurred, due to poor health conditions. d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile Presiding magistrates are authorized to issue arrest warrants. Regular police and gendarmes can make arrests without a warrant but must submit a written report to a magistrate within 48 hours of the detention. The magistrate can order the suspect released or confirm the charges and continue detention, initially for 15 days, then subsequently for periods of 30 days as necessary to prepare the case for trial. The law allows unlimited pretrial detention; 6 to 12 months is a typical period, although less complex cases are dispatched more quickly. The police are obligated to follow the same laws but have detained people for many months without having their cases certified and forwarded to the Ministry of Justice as required. Bail is permitted in some cases. Incommunicado detention reportedly exists, although the law prohibits it. Authorities generally followed legal procedures in criminal cases, although they often exceeded the time limits prescribed by law. The lack of a well-trained and adequately supported judiciary constrains expeditious proceedings. The disruption of the political process and the general level of insecurity within the country have severely impeded the judicial process, delaying a majority of criminal trials. A National Inquiry Commission with arrest authority was established to investigate responsibility for the October 1993 coup attempt and subsequent violence. In May it began to make arrests. At year's end, the Ministry of Justice reported over 800 persons (including military personnel) were in custody for crimes related to the coup attempt and assassinations or the ensuing violence and reprisals. (Military authorities confirm 14 military personnel in prison facing court martial charges related to the coup attempt.) Those arrested could not be tried and remain in custody since a fully empowered President, authorized to panel a criminal grand jury, was not installed until October and had not yet addressed judicial questions at year's end. Police hold all detainees on criminal charges, though several arrested in connection with ethnic violence claimed they were being held for their political convictions rather than involvement in violent acts. Pretrial detainees constitute about 75 percent of the prison population of approximately 3,500 inmates. The Constitution prohibits political exile and the Government did not use forced exile as a means of political control. e. Denial of Fair Public Trial The judicial system was severely disrupted as a result of the October 1993 coup attempt and the repeated presidential succession negotiations throughout 1994. When operating normally, the judicial system is divided into civil and criminal courts, with the Supreme Court at the apex. Military courts have jurisdiction over crimes committed by members of the military or those involving actions against the military. The Constitution provides for a High Court to try the President, Prime Minister, or the President of the National Assembly, and a Constitutional Court to review all new laws (including decree-laws) and constitutional issues. Citizens do not have regular access to civilian and military court proceedings, although trials are ostensibly public. Although defendants have a right to counsel and to defend themselves, few have legal representation in practice. The Constitution provides for an independent judiciary, but in practice, it is dominated by the Tutsi ethnic group. The President's authority to appoint judges and to pardon or reduce sentences was limited by constitutional amendment in September during presidential succession negotiations. Most Burundians assume the courts still promote the interests of the dominant Tutsi minority. Besides the frequent lack of counsel for the accused, other major shortcomings in the legal system include: the lack of adequate resources, trained personnel, and an outmoded Legal Code. Legal Code revisions begun in 1993 continued at a slowed pace and had not yet been submitted for approval at year's end. Since President Ndadaye's 1993 amnesty decree, there have been no clearly identifiable political prisoners in Burundi. However, police bring charges of involvement in violent crimes or disturbance of the peace against detainees in connection with political issues. f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence The Constitution provides for the right to privacy and the authorities generally respect the law requiring search warrants. Security forces can monitor telephones and are commonly assumed to do so. g. Use of Excessive Force and Violations of Humanitarian Law in Internal Conflicts Burundi's ethnic conflict did not erupt into civil war, but incidents of ethnic violence continued to plague the country. Ethnic violence resulted in 7 out of Bujumbura's 11 residential districts being largely segregated along ethnic lines between January and May. Tutsis burned and looted Hutu homes in the Ngagara, Nyakabiga, Musaga, and Cibitoke quarters. Hutus responded in kind in Kamenge, Kinama and Kanyosha. In both cases, fleeing individuals were often killed. Credible witnesses alleged that troops pursuing armed Hutu militants killed unarmed civilians, including women and children, in rural Bujumbura, Muramvya, Gitega and Kayanza provinces. In two major operations in the Kamenge suburb of Bujumbura in March and September, soldiers in each foray shot and bayoneted more than 200 unarmed civilians, including women and children. Elements within the civilian intelligence organization provided arms and encouragement to armed Hutu militants attacking military patrols and stationary outposts in the interior and in Bujumbura. Hutus in the interior frequently attacked small numbers of displaced Tutsis as they attempted to return to their homes. Military troops on legitimate disarmament operations frequently targeted noncombatants or destroyed homes or markets without authorization or provocation. Displaced Tutsis, often with the help of members of the military or armed Tutsis from the capital, attacked Hutus and burned homes in turn, maintaining a cycle of retribution. Witnesses report over 800 deaths from ethnic violence in Muyinga province alone. Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including: a. Freedom of Speech and Press The Constitution provides for the right to free opinion and expression so long as these rights are expressed "in a manner consistent with the public law and order." In practice, these rights are circumscribed by the Government's unrestrained exercise of this proviso. The 1992 Press Law, not enforced until December 1993, restricts criticism of government policies, the person of the President, and statements which the authorities, at their discretion, could construe as contrary to national unity or injurious to the national economy. The law also provides for government review and possible censorship of all media prior to distribution. In practice, private newspapers were published without prior government review and no cases of seizure were recorded. Twenty-five newspapers appear regularly, in addition to the government-owned French-language daily Le Renouveau. There are 13 weekly and 3 monthly French-language newspapers; the remainder are Kirundi-language publications, but journalistic standards are low and most papers were simply political party newsletters. Others were consistent and energetic organs of ethnic hatred. No newspaper was banned or suppressed. In August an undetermined source threatened and harassed three senior editors of La Semaine, the most independent of the French-language newspapers, as they were researching a report on the military. They fled the country. Most citizens relied on the government-controlled radio programming in French, Kirundi, and Swahili for information. Newspaper readership, however, remained limited. Burundi's two government-owned radio stations (one broadcasting in Kirundi, the other in French, Swahili, and English) allowed political parties equal broadcasting opportunities in rotation. Some opposition parties complained that this arrangement provided insufficient access. In 1994, clandestine radio messages, originating from unknown sources, were used to incite ethnic hatred. Academic freedom has not been tested. The Civil Code does not address academic freedom. b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association A 1991 decree-law established guidelines for granting permits for public meetings or parades. The Government granted opposition parties permits for several public rallies and demonstrations, but it occasionally denied this permission when it alleged that the lead time was insufficient to arrange adequate security; most meetings were subsequently rescheduled. Since the June 1993 elections, there have been no reports of government harassment or bureaucratic obstacles to the formation of associations in rural areas. However, rural residents other than those gathered in displaced camps were not inclined to form associations for reasons of general security. c. Freedom of Religion There is no state religion and the Government made no attempt to restrict freedom of worship by adherents of any religion. However, ethnic alignments by religious affiliation led to polarization, violence, and to mutual attacks on one another's churches by representatives of the Catholic majority and of various Protestant denominations. d. Freedom of Movement within the Country, Foreign Travel, Immigration, and Repatriation In general, the Government made no attempt to restrict citizens' travel for political reasons, either internally or abroad. However, in one incident, officials of the Tutsi-dominated Burundi immigration office denied exit to 23 Hutu students traveling on government scholarships to Bangui, on the grounds that the majority FRODEBU Party was sending the youths for paramilitary training. The immigration office presented no evidence for the claim but nonetheless prevented the students from leaving the country. Burundi now faces repatriation of several hundred thousand indigent Hutu refugees who fled after the presidential assassination and 1993 coup attempt, as well as the continued repatriation of refugees from 1972 and 1991. In addition, nearly 600,000 internally displaced persons remain in camps or dispersed in the hills. In April and May approximately 90,000 Tutsi refugees entered freely from Rwanda. In June violence in Rwanda drove Hutu refugees into Burundi and the UNHCR reported several incidents of Tutsi attacks on Hutu refugees. The Government made tentative efforts to resettle repatriating refugees on a voluntary basis. By October most Tutsi refugees had returned to Rwanda, while approximately 216,000 Rwandan Hutu refugees remained in Burundi at year's end. Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government The Constitution provides for free, multiparty elections by secret ballot, with a 5-year term of office for both the President and members of the National Assembly. The October 1993 assassination of the elected President, National Assembly President, and National Assembly Vice President exhausted constitutional provisions for presidential succession. Since security conditions precluded new elections, negotiations, which included a broad spectrum of political parties and other civic organizations, were held, resulting in the formation of a coalition Government. There are no legal restrictions on the participation of women or indigenous peoples in elections or politics, although in practice, both groups are underrepresented. Women currently hold 2 of 22 Cabinet ministries and 9 of 81 National Assembly seats. Though the Twa (approximately 1 percent of the population) voted in the 1993 elections, none ran for office nor participated actively in the political process. Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigations of Alleged Violations of Human Rights Private citizens harassed and threatened members of one independent human rights group, Iteka, who left the country after receiving threats on their lives. Local human rights groups received varying degrees of cooperation from government ministries. At the Government's request, a group of international human rights organizations conducted an inquiry in January into responsibility for the October 1993 coup attempt and subsequent massacres. The report, published in July, indicated extensive military and civilian complicity in the coup attempt and excessive and unnecessary use of force by the army and police. The report also concluded that some local FRODEBU government administrators participated in or incited the ensuing violence against Tutsis and UPRONA Hutus in the provinces, but found no evidence of an organized FRODEBU plan of massacre at a national level. The military and the political opposition immediately dismissed the report as biased, inaccurate, and incomplete. Other human rights groups including Amnesty International sent delegations as well. Physicians for Human Rights reported resistance from local military authorities when visiting the site of a mass grave suspected to be that of the refugees murdered June 11 in Kirundo province. Local military officers prevented Physicians for Human Rights and other observers from examining the grave site and discouraged local residents from speaking with the group. The International Committee of the Red Cross reported good cooperation from government authorities in its prison visits. Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, Language, or Social Status The Constitution explicitly provides equal status and protection for all citizens, without distinction based on sex, origin, ethnicity, religion, or opinion. Women Women hold a secondary place in society and face both legal and societal discrimination. Explicitly discriminatory inheritance laws and discriminatory financial credit practices remain unchanged. Although women by law must receive the same pay as men for the same jobs, women are far less likely to hold any mid- or high-level positions. In rural areas, women traditionally perform hard farm work and have far less opportunity for education than men enjoy. Violence against women occurs, but there is no documentation of its extent. Wives have the right to bring physical abuse charges against their husbands. In practice this rarely occurs. Police do not normally intervene in domestic disputes, and the press does not report incidents of violence against women, including rape. There were no known court cases dealing with abuse of women. Children The Government has taken no action to protect children's rights, nor has it addressed the growing problem of the increasing population of orphans which resulted from the violence of 1993 and 1994. Indigenous People The indigenous Twa (Pygmy) minority remained almost completely marginalized, economically, socially, and politically. Most Twa continued to live in isolation, uneducated, and without access to government services, including health care. The Twa voted in the 1993 election, but are otherwise outside the political process. National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities Burundi's fundamental problem continues to be ethnic conflict between majority Hutus, who gained political power only with the election of Ndadaye, and minority Tutsis, who have historically held power and still control the military and dominate educated society. De facto ethnic discrimination against Hutus--85 percent of the population--colors every facet of society and institutions, including the military and the judicial establishment, despite constitutional provisions and some policies introduced under the Buyoya military administration to attract Hutus into the professions. The Ndadaye administration upon assuming office began a more concerted effort to put its FRODEBU faithful into the government bureaucracy. Those policy changes quickly led to increased tensions between long-term Tutsi professionals and the FRODEBU Government. People with Disabilities The Government has not enacted legislation or otherwise mandated access to buildings or government services for people with disabilities. Burundi's rudimentary economy effectively excludes the physically disabled from many types of employment. Section 6 Worker Rights a. The Right of Association The Constitution and the Labor Code nominally protect the rights of workers to form unions, though the military, the gendarmerie and certain expatriates working in the public sector are prohibited from union participation. Most workers are urban civil servants. Since its independence from the Government in 1992, the national umbrella trade union organization, the Organization of Free Unions of Burundi (CSB), has been financially dependent on a system of voluntary checkoffs, as are local unions. The CSB represented labor in drafting negotiations for the revised Labor Code and has participated in collective bargaining negotiations in cooperation with individual labor unions. The CSB includes all labor unions except the teachers' union and is the only existing labor federation. The Labor Code permits the formation of additional unions or confederations outside the CSB. Unions are able to affiliate with international organizations. The Labor Code also provides workers with the right to strike. Restrictions on the right to strike and lockout are several: that the action must be taken only after exhausting all other peaceful means of resolution; that negotiations must continue during the action, mediated by a mutually agreeable party or by the Government; and that 6 days' notice must be given. The law prohibits retribution against workers participating in a legal strike and this is upheld in practice. In September the Labor Court decided in favor of workers in the national data processing center strike, in process since October 1993. In the year's only other strike, teachers in several regions of the country struck briefly, and successfully, in September over their inability to claim assets from an obligatory savings program. b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively The Labor Code recognizes the right to collective bargaining, which had formerly been acknowledged only by ordinance. Since most workers are civil servants, government entities are involved in almost every phase of labor negotiations. Public sector wages are set in fixed scales in individual work contracts and are not affected by collective bargaining. In the private sector, wage scales also exist but individual contract negotiation is possible. In principle, private sector wage scales can also be influenced by collective bargaining, although this is infrequent. The Labor Code also gives the Labor Court jurisdiction over all labor dispute cases, including those involving public employees. Labor negotiations are still conducted largely between unions and employers under the supervision of the tripartite National Labor Council, the Government's highest consultative authority on labor issues. The Council represents government, labor, and management and is presided over and regulated by the Minister of Labor. The Labor Code prohibits employers from firing or otherwise discriminating against a worker because of union affiliation or activity. This right is upheld in practice. There are no export processing zones, although a decree-law making the entire country a free zone for many nontraditional, export-oriented activities was promulgated in 1992. c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor The law prohibits forced or compulsory labor and it is not practiced. d. Minimum Age for Employment of Children The Labor Code states that children under the age of 16 are not allowed to be employed by "an enterprise" even as apprentices, although it also states that they may undertake occasional work which does not damage their health or schooling. In practice, young children do heavy manual labor in rural areas in daytime during the school year, including transporting bricks on their heads. Children are legally prohibited from working at night, although many do so in the informal sector. Children are obligated by custom and economic necessity to help support their families by participating in activities related to subsistence agriculture in family-based enterprises and the informal sector. e. Acceptable Conditions of Work The formal minimum wage for unskilled workers is $0.58 (140 Burundi francs) per day in Bujumbura and Gitega and $0.37 (88 Burundi francs) in the rest of the country, with a graduated scale for greater skill levels. This amount does not allow a family to maintain a decent standard of living and most families rely on second incomes and subsistence agriculture to do so. Employees working under a contract, particularly in urban areas, generally earn significantly more than the minimum wage. All employees in the public sector work under contract. The CSB estimates that 70 percent of employees working in the formal private sector are covered by a contract. The Labor Code imposes a maximum 8-hour workday and 45-hour workweek except in cases when workers are involved in activities related to national security. Supplements must be paid for overtime in any case. The Labor Code establishes health and safety standards requiring an employer to provide a safe workplace and assigns enforcement responsibility to the Ministry of Labor. However, the Ministry does not enforce the Code effectively. Health and safety articles in the Labor Code do not directly address the workers' right to remove themselves from a dangerous work situation. (###)
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