The judges of the International Criminal Court (ICC) authorize the opening of an investigation into the situation in Burundi. This decision made public on Thursday was taken on October 25th.
The Court insisted “to implement protective measures for victims and potential witnesses before communicating”.
The investigation will focus on crimes allegedly committed in Burundi or by Burundian nationals abroad between April 26, 2015 and October 26, 2017.
The withdrawal of Burundi from the ICC is in no way an obstacle to prosecution , according to the statutes of the ICC.
If Burundi asked for its withdrawal from the ICC a year ago, it has only been effective since 27 October.
The International Criminal Court therefore remains competent to deal with alleged crimes against humanity and Burundi is also obliged to cooperate.
“In accordance with Article 127 of the Rome Statute, which specifically governs the question of the withdrawal of States from the treaty, Burundi has the duty to co-operate with the Court for the purposes of the criminal investigation opened before 27 October 2017.”
The obligation to cooperate remains in force as long as the investigation continues, “said Fadi el-Abdallah, ICC spokesperson
The ICC prosecutor’s office is therefore authorized to open an investigation into the probable crimes committed on 26 April 2015 – which coincides with the beginning of the crisis that this country is going through – as of 26 October 2017 inclusive, the effective date of the Rome of the International Criminal Court. However, the prosecutor could extend his investigation beyond that date if certain legal conditions – which the Pre-Trial Chamber does not specify – are met.
This authorization to open an investigation follows the preliminary examination launched in April 2016 by the prosecutor Fatou Bensouda following allegations of numerous crimes against humanity committed mainly by the police, as well as the Imbonerakure , the youth league of the ruling party, which the UN calls a militia.
According to the preliminary court, the violence allegedly resulted in at least 1,200 deaths, not counting the thousands of victims of rape, torture and other enforced disappearances.
The ICC doubts the judicial efficiency of Burundi
Burundi can nevertheless ask the prosecutor to entrust him with the investigation. “Burundi may, within one month of being notified of the initiation of the investigation, inform the public prosecutor that it opens or has itself opened an investigation into its nationals, for criminal acts that may be crimes that fall within the jurisdiction of the ICC and are related to the information reported by the prosecutor, “adds Fadi el-Abdallah. The prosecutor can accept to entrust the investigation to Bujumbura or refuse.
This last option seems the most likely because, despite the creation of three Burundian commissions of inquiry, the ICC considers that the country has not so far shown great judicial efficiency on the issues of interest to the judges of La Hague. Two weeks ago, Bujumbura celebrated with great pomp an exit from the ICC that would protect it from prosecution. He is now caught up by international justice. For Willy Nyamitwe, Burundi’s chief communications officer, “the corrupt ICC has just shot itself in the foot.”