The International Criminal Court at The Hague, Netherlands has given the prosecutors the go-ahead to investigate alleged war crimes committed by the government of Burundi against its political opposition between April 2015 and October 2017.
In a statement, judges said there is “a reasonable basis to proceed with an investigation in relation to crimes against humanity.” The war crimes, judges said, include murder, rape, and torture that led to the deaths of more than 1,000 people and prompted 400,000 to flee the country.
The decision was announced a few days after Burundi made the decision to withdraw from the ICC but as stipulated the court will still have jurisdiction over crimes committed while it was still a member.
Burundi erupted into protests and violence in 2015 after President Pierre Nkurunziza announced he would seek a third term. Critics said he was defying term limits in the constitution and the agreement that ended Burundi’s civil war. The crisis was accelerated by the attempted coup by the military when Nkurunziza was away on state business.
The instruction for investigation by the ICC has been received by the Burundian refugees in Rwanda with jubilation as they have echoed they don’t feel safe returning home because the killings of perceived government opponents in Burundi continue.