Photo of the week-Burundi: the ICC wants to take the next step

Photo of the week-Burundi: the ICC wants to take the next step

The International Criminal Court, ICC, says investigations into Burundi are well underway and nearing completion. The next step will be to issue international arrest warrants for the alleged perpetrators. Victim’s lawyers welcome this, even if there is still a long way to go. INFO SOS Médias Burundi

Five years after the begining of current investigations into crimes allegedly committed in Burundi during the 2015 political crisis, the ICC is reassuring.

“The work must be meticulous since the investigators do not have access to Burundian soil. And therefore, collecting incriminating and exculpatory evidence is not easy in these conditions. But, rest assured, the job is well done and in a short time, we will move on to the next step, “says the team of investigators who avoid giving details or revealing “confidential information so as not to hinder the work of the ICC prosecutor’s office.

Six crimes caught the attention of the prosecutor’s office

“These include murder and attempted murder, imprisonment or severe deprivation of liberty, torture, rape, enforced disappearance and persecution,” we learn.

“It is estimated that at least 1,200 people have been killed, thousands have been illegally detained and thousands more tortured and that the disappearances would number in the hundreds. The alleged violence would have led to the displacement of 413,490 people between April 2015 and May 2017”, the office of the prosecutor of the ICC, located in The Hague, in the Netherlands, says.

The next step that the ICC mentions is “the issuance of international arrest warrants against alleged perpetrators”, indicates the commission of inquiry, again with great hindsight without any details on anything.

“These crimes were allegedly committed by agents of the state and other groups implementing state policies, including the Burundian national police, the national intelligence service and units of the Burundian army operating in large party according to parallel chains of command and jointly with members of the Imbonerakure, the youth league of the ruling party”, adds the prosecutor’s office.

“The ICC Prosecutor does not have to limit himself to the incidents and crimes described in the decision but he can, on the basis of the evidence, broaden his investigation to other crimes against humanity or to other crimes within the jurisdiction of the Court (i.e. genocide or war crimes), as long as they remain within the parameters of the investigation as authorized”, ICC went on saying.

The decision issued by the Pre-Trial Chamber, which authorized the investigation in October 2017, sets limits to the investigation in time and space.

“The investigation may relate to alleged crimes committed on Burundian territory or to those committed outside Burundi by nationals of this country. As for the time frame, the investigation focuses on crimes allegedly committed between April 26, 2015 and October 26, 2017, but may also extend to related crimes committed during another period or those that continued to be committed. “says the ICC prosecutor’s office.

Satisfaction of lawyers and victims

The “communications”, ICC jargon which means complaints, were largely filed by Burundian lawyers, civil society activists from the “Collective of Civil Party Lawyers for Justice for Burundi” or by the CAVIB, “Collective of Lawyers for the Defense of Victims of Crimes of International Law Committed in Burundi”.

These legal professionals are delighted with the significant progress of the investigations on Burundi.

“There was no doubt about it. We know that the prosecutor’s office does extremely delicate and excellent work. The investigators do not sleep, they meet victims, survivors and people affected by crimes committed in Burundi in different asylum areas of the latter”, comments Lambert Nigarura, of the Collective of Civil Party Lawyers.

“They have all the information. They also went on to re-verify the details we provided to them. The prosecutor’s office has everything to move on to the next step, that of issuing international arrest warrants”, hopes Nigarura, sp, also coordinator of the Burundian Coalition for the ICC, CB-CPI.

However, many victims find that the time taken by the ICC is long and begin to lose hope after more than five years.

“The wait is long and may not bear good fruit, our wounds linked to torture and sexual rape will never be healed,” say some.

For their part, the lawyers of the civil parties reassure.

“Yes, five years may seem long for victims who are waiting for justice, but given the strategies undertaken by the ICC since Burundi has withdrawn from this court, this period is reasonable to collect all the necessary information”, indicate these lawyers.

And other victims fear that the Burundi case risks taking the form of that of Côte d’Ivoire where the main alleged perpetrators, former President Laurent Gbagbo and his former Minister for Youth Charles Blé Goudé were cleared by this Court, for lack of sufficient evidence against them.

Lawyers don’t see it that way.

“The Burundian case is clearly different from that of Côte d’Ivoire, first on the nature of the crimes committed and the perpetrators, then on the incriminating evidence. We are reassured that the Burundian case must lead to the prosecution of the perpetrators of the crimes committed since 2015 and the reparation of the victims”, concludes lawyer Lambert Nigarura.

Since October 27, 2017, Burundi is no longer part of the Rome Statute establishing the ICC.

However, the ICC has a strategy in the event of a withdrawal of a State in question.

“There are different scenarios: people surrender themselves to the ICC, they can be arrested if they travel, or we can issue sealed warrants that remain confidential until the appropriate moment to arrest an alleged author. People can be protected by a government but this situation is not eternal”, explained Fadi El Abdallah, the spokesman of the ICC.

Gitega accuses this Court of being “partial” and of working with the enemies of Burundi and the putschists who tarnish the image of the country.

Contacted on this subject, the Ministry of Justice preferred to make fewer comments.

“I believe that the best person to give you information is the government spokesperson, at the same time secretary general of the government,” replied the spokesperson for the Ministry of Justice, Donavine Niyongere.

Our photo: ICC headquarters in The Hague, November 2022

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