Maria E. Burnett

Senior Associate (Non-resident), Africa Program
Associated Programs: Africa Program

Maria Burnett is a human rights lawyer and consultant to human rights organizations and foundations. For over 13 years, she worked with the Africa Division of Human Rights Watch, first based in Bujumbura as the Burundi researcher and then later in Kampala as the Uganda researcher. She eventually became an associate director in the Africa Division and director for the East and Horn of Africa, supervising work on Uganda, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia, Kenya, and Tanzania. Burnett has researched and written on a broad range of human rights issues, including police brutality, free expression, child soldiers, women’s and children’s rights, the rights of indigenous people in the context of mining and exploration, the use of torture and extrajudicial executions, threats to civic space, and justice reform in Central and East Africa. Her writing has appeared in Al Jazeera, the East African, CNN, the Daily Monitor, the Index on Censorship, and the American Scholar, among other news sources. Prior to joining Human Rights Watch, Burnett worked as an architect and journalist in Southern and West Africa. Burnett holds a law degree from Yale Law School, a master’s from the Architectural Association in London, and a bachelor's in architecture, summa cum laude, from Princeton University. She has studied at the University of Cape Town, South Africa, and Harbin Institute of Technology, China. She speaks French, Italian, and Albanian.