The International Criminal Court is to open a preliminary investigation into the year-long political violence in Burundi, the first step in the process towards prosecutions.
Rights groups welcomed the decision, announced by Fatou Bensouda, the ICC chief prosecutor, on Monday. But some analysts said the crisis in the East African country was escalating so rapidly — as demonstrated by the murder of a Burundian general in the capital Bujumbura on Monday — that any ICC process would make little difference.
Ms Bensouda said more than 430 Burundians had been killed, 3,400 arrested and 230,000 forced to seek refuge abroad since the crisis began last April. Her office had also “reviewed reports detailing acts of killing, imprisonment, torture, rape and other forms of sexual violence, as well as cases of enforced disappearances”. The crisis began after President Pierre Nkurunziza announced he would run for a third term in office, in violation of the constitution. This triggered a coup attempt, which was put down. Mr Nkurunziza then won a third term in July in an election that was widely criticised as neither free nor fair.
In the six months after the election there were almost daily killings, widespread arrests and at least three armed opposition groups were formed. At the start of this year the violence appeared to become more covert, with increased reports of enforced disappearances and torture among the civilian population. Violence against the military also increased. However, since the start of this month the violence has become more open again.
The UN Security Council and African Union have tried to mediate a solution but with little effect. Mr Nkurunziza has rejected the deployment of international peacekeepers. Ms Bensouda said her initial probe, which would have no time limit, would determine whether to launch a formal investigation that might lead to prosecutions. Other preliminary investigations have lasted anywhere from two to eight years.
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"Il devient absolument urgent de mettre un terme à cette injustice. Il y a un manque de connaissances et de recherches. Il faut donc promouvoir le recueil de témoignages, mais aussi construire des mémoriaux, organiser des expositions..." - @BenjaminAbtan