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International court to examine Burundi violence

A man takes a picture of spent bullet casings lying on a street in the Nyakabiga neighbourhood of Bujumbura, Burundi. Burundi erupted into protests and violence in April 2015 after President Pierre Nkurunziza sought what many viewed as an unconstitutional third term. PHOTO: VOA

A man takes a picture of spent bullet casings lying on a street in the Nyakabiga neighbourhood of Bujumbura, Burundi. Burundi erupted into protests and violence in April 2015 after President Pierre Nkurunziza sought what many viewed as an unconstitutional third term. PHOTO: VOA

The International Criminal Court (ICC) says it is opening a preliminary probe into the violence that erupted last year in Burundi.

The ICC prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, said the probe is not an investigation and offered no timeline of how long it will last.

But in a statement announcing her decision yesterday, she said she has been closely tracking the uptick of violence in the central African nation that has been a member of the Hague-based court since 2004.

“My office has reviewed communications and reports about killings, imprisonment, torture, rape and other forms of sexual violence as well as cases of enforced disappearances. Because all these acts appear to fall within the jurisdiction of the ICC, I have decided to open a preliminary examination into the situation in Burundi since April 2015,” Bensouda said.

Burundi’s political crisis was triggered last year when President Pierre Nkurunziza ran for a disputed third term. Bensouda said at least 430 people have been killed, 3,400 have been arrested and more than 230,000 Burundians have fled the country.

Yesterday, a high-ranking general and his wife were reportedly killed while dropping their daughter off at school.

Human Rights Watch International Justice Advocacy Director, Geraldine Mattioli-Zeltner, welcomed the ICC announcement, but said it is only a first step.

“We hope the announcement that it is opening a preliminary investigation in Burundi is really a wake-up call to those who commit or order these crimes to be committed that there will not be impunity anymore for grave human rights violations,” Mattioli-Zeltner said.

The United Nations last week accused Burundi’s security services of torturing and illegally detaining several hundred people this year. Last month, the European Union suspended aid to the Burundian government over the political crisis.

Meanwhile, more than 20 people were killed when a packed lorry being used for a school trip in the east African state of Burundi overturned, officials said.

Some 130 secondary school students were in the lorry when it crashed on Sunday night as it travelled from Gitega city southwards to Rutana province.



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