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ICC to investigate violence in Burundi

[JURIST] International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda [official profile] on Monday announced [press release] a "preliminary investigation" into allegations that the Burundi government, headed by President Pierre Nkurunziza, committed various human rights violations over the past year. In a statement to the media, Bensouda said that "more than 430 persons were reportedly killed, at least 3,400 people have been arrested and over 230,000 Burundians forced to seek refuge in neighboring countries," and that the government has perpetrated "acts of killing, imprisonment, torture, rape and other forms of sexual violence, as well as cases of enforced disappearances." Urging that this is not an investigation, but rather a review of available evidence to determine whether an investigation is appropriate, Bensouda pledged to work closely with Burundi authorities in seeking a resolution to these problems.

As a signatory to the Rome Statute [text, PDF], all acts of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in Burundi are within the jurisdiction of the ICC. The ICC is not the only concerned international party, however, as earlier in April, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein warned [JURIST report] of an increase in torture and ill treatment in Burundi. In the last four months Zeid's office has recorded more than 300 new cases of torture and ill-treatment. The human rights chief asked the Burundi government to put an immediate end to these "unacceptable and illegal practices." Violence in Burundi began in the wake of Nkurunziza's announcement that he would seek a third term of office, to which he was elected [JURIST report] in July. In March, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Zeid expressed concern over increased violence and rights violations in Burundi and called for [JURIST report] an "inclusive political dialogue" to end the 11-year struggle. The Burundi government, however, has been resistant to investigation [JURIST reports].

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