Civil society welcomes ICC move in Burundi

Tony Karumba_A placard reading I am Burundi lies on the ground during a protest in the Kenyan capital Nairobi on December 18, 2015

A placard reading “I am Burundi” lies on the ground during a protest in the Kenyan capital Nairobi on December 18, 2015 © Tony Karumba

In a move welcomed by the families of suspected disappeared and civil society, the International Criminal Court (ICC)’s prosecutor has opened a preliminary examination into the situation in Burundi to determine whether reports of grave international crimes since April last year warrant the opening of a full investigation.

Civil society and others have long been calling  for accountability for alleged acts of killing, imprisonment, enforced disappearances, torture, rape and other forms of sexual violence allegedly committed during a conflict between supporters of President Pierre Nkunrunziza and those who believe that his re-election in July 2015 for a third term violated the nation’s constitution. At least three armed rebel groups have since emerged in the country. Civil society groups are facing increasing hostility in Burundi.

Lambert Nigarura, Legal Representative of the Burundian Coalition for the ICC

“The Burundi Coalition for the International Criminal Court welcomes the announcement by the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to open a preliminary investigation into the ongoing crimes in Burundi and that the government of Bujumbura has been committing against its people since April 2015. The announcement is  a light at the end of the tunnel for the distressed people of Burundi.

Faced with the failure of the international community to assume its responsibility to protect and a national justice system instrumentalized in oppression, the people of Burundi hope that international justice can help break the vicious cycle of impunity in Burundi”.

Dai Kurokawa_Kenyan activists and Burundian expatriates hold placards and candles during a candlelight vigil held for Burundi in Nairobi

Kenyan activists and Burundian expatriates hold placards and candles during a candlelight vigil held for Burundi in Nairobi © Dai Kurokawa

Since April last year 430 people have allegedly been killed and hundreds reportedly tortured and forcibly disappeared. 4.000 are said to have been arbitrarily detained, and more than 250.000 Burundians have fled the country. This is the evidence gathered by the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH) and Ligue ITEKA – International Refugee Rights Initiative.

Géraldine Mattioli-Zeltner, International Justice Advocacy Director, Human Rights Watch

“The announcement that the International Criminal Court prosecutor is opening a preliminary examination of the situation in Burundi should be a wake-up call that the era of impunity for grave human rights violations in Burundi is over. Allegations about crimes there and those who commit or order them will now be under the Court’s scrutiny.”

Karim Lahidji, FIDH President

“Parallel chains of command have been established within the security forces to orchestrate the repression.Tensions within the army are extremely vivid. The international community must do everything in its power to protect civilians and prevent the situation from getting out of control. The nature of the crimes witnessed by the FIDH delegation could very well fall under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC).”

Muthoni Wanyeki, Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lake, Amnesty International

“The wanton disregard for human rights we have seen in Burundi over the last year is deeply disturbing. These violations must be impartially investigated and individuals suspected of being responsible, including those representing state institutions, must be held to account in fair trials.”

Boys walk behind patrolling soldiers in Bujumbura

Boys walk behind patrolling soldiers in Bujumbura, Burundi, May 15, 2015 © REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic

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