Burundi: Target for ICC?

Bujumbura (Burundi) – The UN Commission of Inquiry released a report on Monday (September 4th). It requests the International Criminal Court to investigate crimes against humanity committed in Burundi. The Commission refers to “an organized plan in the pursuit of a common policy.” This is a widespread and systematic attack against the civilian population.

This suggests that crimes against humanity have been committed in Burundi since April 2015. The commission’s report mentions extrajudicial executions, arbitrary arrests, enforced disappearances, torture, inhuman or degrading treatment and sexual violence. The list of abuses is long.

According to the commission, “major decisions, including those leading to serious violations of human rights, would be taken not by the government but by the President of the Republic and a handful of generals.”

The president of the commission, Fatsah Ouguergouz, also targets officials at the highest level of the state, senior officers and agents of the defense and security forces as well as the youth of the ruling party Cndd-Fdd, the Imbonerakure. According to him, these alleged perpetrators are aware of this plan, given their functions in the state security apparatus or their indoctrination within Cndd-Fdd. Targets were especially members of Msd and Fnl parties as well as soldiers of the former army Ex FAB.

Bujumbura dismisses a “biased” report

In order to reach the conclusions of its report, the commission visited Burundi’s neighboring countries. More than 500 interviews were conducted. However, it calls for more cooperation so far refused by the government.

Among the recommendations of the commission are individual sanctions against the main perpetrators presumed by the Security Council. To this end, the commission produced a secret and non-exhaustive list of these suspects which will be confided to the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

The International Criminal Court is called on to launch an investigation into the crimes committed in Burundi since April 2015, a date that marks the start of protests against the candidacy of President Nkurunziza.

The failed coup as well as the attacks on four military camps are decisive factors in the escalation of violence in 2015.

The Burundian government rejected this report. The Minister of Human Rights, Martin Nivyabandi spoke of a biased report that does not take into account the obvious improvement in the country’s situation. The Minister of Justice, Aimé-Laurentine Kanyana, said the ICC cannot do anything better than the Burundian jurisdiction. The National Assembly, for its part, decided to set up a commission to investigate the allegations in the report.

In any case, if the prosecution is to take place, the ICC has only one month to get started. Burundi withdrew from the International Criminal Court on 27 October 2016. Its final withdrawal will take place on 27 October.

Read reactions to the report

By Pierre Emmanuel Ndgendakumana