Burundi has slammed the decision by the International Criminal Court to open investigations into alleged human-rights crimes committed in the country since 2015.
The move comes after the ICC judges authorised the prosecutor to open a probe into the alleged crimes including murder and attempted murder, rape, torture and forced disappearances.
The Court indicated that the Pre-Trial chamber III, considered that the supporting materials presented by the ICC prosecutor offered a reasonable basis to proceed with an investigation.
“The Pre-Trial chamber found that the court has jurisdiction over crimes allegedly committed while Burundi was a state party to the ICC Rome Statute... up to and including October 26, 2017,” a statement from the Court reads.
Burundi became a state party of the Rome Statute — the treaty that established the ICC — on December 1, 2004. It officially quit the Court on October 27, this year, one year after it submitted a notice to withdraw, becoming the first African country to pull out.
The decision to withdraw came after the Court announced that it had launched preliminary investigations into crimes committed in the country since 2015.
But Justice Minister Laurentine Kanyana slammed the decision of the court to probe crimes against humanity saying Burundi has no obligation to it and that the country’s judiciary is competent and capable of punishing perpetrators of crime.
“Any action that will be taken by ICC will not be productive because Burundi has no obligation to the ICC,” said Ms Kanyana.
The National Independent Human Rights Commission said there is no credible legal basis upon which the ICC could base their investigation.
“We have advised against the opening of investigations by the ICC and recommend the Burundian judicial system investigate the crimes instead,” said the Commission’s chairman Jean Baptist Baribonekeza.
Team of experts
According to the ICC, more than 1,000 people have been killed in Burundi since 2015, when President Pierre Nkurunziza’s push for a third term in office sparked protests by opposition supporters who said the move was unconstitutional.
Government officials, police, officials from the national intelligence and the Imbonerakure, the youth wing of the ruling party have been linked to the crimes allegedly committed in the country.
Last September the United Nations Human Rights Council passed a resolution initiated by African countries that praised Burundi for wishing to engage in dialogue. The resolution requested the UN High Commissioner to urgently dispatch a team of experts to Burundi.
“The team will make recommendations for the technical assistance and capacity building and provide ways to improve the situation of human-rights in the country,” the resolution reads.
It further noted that the three experts will also collect and preserve information to determine the facts and circumstances in accordance with international standards and practices, in co-operation with the Burundi government. They will then forward the information to the judicial authorities of Burundi in order to establish the truth and to ensure perpetrators are accountable to the judicial authorities of Burundi.
However, the European Union-led resolution was later adopted by the Council which extended the commission of inquiry’s mandate for one year.
The UN Commission of Inquiry on Burundi then asked the ICC to probe the alleged human-rights abuses in the country.