BUJUMBURA – The International Criminal Court has authorized the Court’s prosecutor to investigate alleged war crimes committed by government between 2015 and 2017 against the opposition.
According to the statement issued by the court on Thursday, the ICC still retains jurisdiction over the situation even though Burundi’s withdrawal from the ICC Rome Statute came into effect on 27 October 2017.
“The decision of the ICC is a relief for the victims and a real beginning of the end of impunity in Burundi,” said Lambert Nigarura, president of the Burundi Coalition for the ICC, “From now on, the authors, co-authors and accomplices of the crimes must understand that the games are over, they will no longer be able to amuse themselves while committing crimes on the civil population without fear of justice.”
Jelena Pia-Comella, the deputy executive director of the Coalition for the ICC said the court was responding to a crisis that has seen thousands killed or disappeared and up to 500,000 fleeing to neighbouring countries, creating further instability in a region that is still emerging from the horrors of the Rwandan genocide in 1994.
“The Coalition for the ICC welcomes today’s announcement by the ICC of the opening of an investigation into alleged grave crimes in Burundi – it offers victims inside and outside the country a chance for justice and redress, including for victims of alleged sexual and gender-based crimes,” he said.
The Hague-based court says widespread and systemic patterns of violations were allegedly conducted by state security forces against civilians opposed to President Nkurunziza’s decision to run for a third term in office.
The crimes, according to ICC, have been widely documented by United Nations investigators and civil society organizations, “who themselves have been subject to severe repression”.