9 November 2017

Burundi: ICC Authorizes Investigation Into Burundi

Photo: Photo: ONU/Eskinder Debebe
Hague Court Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda

The Pre-Trial Chamber III of the International Criminal Court issued a public redacted version of its decision authorizing the ICC Prosecutor to open an investigation regarding crimes committed in Burundi from 26 April 2015 to 26 October 2017.

The Prosecutor is authorized to extend her investigation into crimes which were committed before 26 April 2015 or continue after 26 October 2017 if certain legal requirements are met. Fadi El Abdallah, ICC spokesman, says the investigation may extend to other crimes against humanity, war crimes or genocide in accordance with the parameters as it was authorized.

"The Prosecutor's Office will collect necessary evidence from various reliable, independent, impartial and objective sources. The survey will take sufficient time to gather necessary information", he says. He also says the ICC Prosecutor will collect sufficient proofs to establish that certain persons are responsible for some crimes and then will ask the prosecutor of the criminal chamber III to make them appear before the court or arrest them.

The Pre-Trial Chamber found that the Court has jurisdiction over crimes allegedly committed while Burundi was a State party to the ICC Rome Statute up to its effective withdrawal on 27 October 2017.

According to the ICC communiqué, Burundi has a duty to cooperate with the Court for the purpose of this investigation since the latter was authorized on 25 October 2017, prior to the date on which the withdrawal became effective for Burundi. "This obligation to cooperate remains in effect for as long as the investigation lasts and encompasses any proceedings resulting from the investigation. Burundi accepted those obligations when ratifying the Rome Statute", the statement reads.

The investigation in relation to crimes against humanity will include murder and attempted murder; imprisonment or severe deprivation of liberty, torture, rape, enforced disappearance and persecution, allegedly committed in Burundi, and in certain instances outside of the country by nationals of Burundi, since 26 April 2015 when President Pierre Nkurunziza announced he would seek a third term.

The Chamber noted that, according to estimates, at least 1,200 people were allegedly killed, thousands illegally detained, thousands reportedly tortured, and hundreds disappeared. The alleged acts of violence have reportedly resulted in the displacement of 413,490 persons between April 2015 and May 2017.

Lambert Nigarura, chairman of the Burundian Coalition for the ICC and one of the collective of lawyers who defend the families of victims of the human rights violations committed since 2015, says it is a huge relief for the victims that the ICC is soon initiating investigations into crimes committed in Burundi.

Willy Nyamitwe, Senior Advisor to the President in charge of Media, Information and Communication has written on his twitter account that what appears to be a today's decision is nothing but a backdated decision (October 25, 2017). "As usual, the International Criminal Court plunges into outrageous lies to implement Westerners' hidden agenda to destabilize Africa", he says.

Human rights activists say more than 2,000 people have been killed since April 2015, more than 8,000 imprisoned and thousands more forced into exile fearing for their security. UNHCR recently reported that since April 2015, some 462,811 refugees and asylum seekers have been forced to flee their homes.

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