ICC opens an investigation into Burundi
On 9 November, Pre-trial ICC judges have announced that they have authorized the ICC prosecutor to open an investigation into alleged crimes committed in Burundi or by nationals of Burundi outside Burundi. The ICC retains jurisdiction over the situation even though Burundi withdrew from the ICC on 27 October 2016
The decision was made under seal on 25 October 2017, but not issued for public release in order to protect victims and potential witnesses.
“We are delighted with this decision”, says Pamela Capizzi, Head of the Burundi program at TRIAL International. “Civil society’s courage and determination has been rewarded, and most importantly the victims and their family will finally get their voice heard.”
The Pre-Trial Chamber considered that there is a reasonable basis to proceed with an investigation in relation to crimes against humanity. Most of the crimes under consideration were allegedly committed by state security forces. While the investigations will focus on the period from 26 April 2015 until 26 October 2017, the Prosecutor may extend it to crimes committed before and after that period if certain legal requirements are met.
Burundi’s withdrawal has no influence on the ICC’s jurisdiction
The Pre-Trial Chamber found that the Court has jurisdiction over crimes allegedly committed while Burundi was a State party to the ICC Statute. Burundi was a State Party from the moment the Rome Statute entered into effect for the country in 2004, up until last month when its withdrawal became effective.
The Pre-Trial Chamber found that the Court may exercise its jurisdiction even after the withdrawal became effective for Burundi as long as the investigation or prosecution relate to alleged crimes committed during the time Burundi was a State Party. Moreover, Burundi has a duty to cooperate with the Court since the investigation was authorized on 25 October 2017, prior to the date on which the withdrawal became effective for Burundi.
The judges also noted the Burundian authorities’ insufficient action so far, despite repeated international pressure. Accordingly, there is no conflict of jurisdiction between the Court and Burundi.
“By opening an investigation into Burundi, the ICC has proved that oblivion and impunity are no longer options for mass crimes”, concludes Pamela Capizzi. “It constitutes one more step towards a solid and courageous international justice system, truly at the service of the victims worldwide.”