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ICC Opens Preliminary Probe Into Burundi Violence

by Lisa Bryant April 25, 2016

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

International Criminal Court prosecutor Fatou Bensouda says the probe is not an investigation and offered no timeline of how long it will last.

But in a statement announcing her decision Monday, 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.

On Monday, 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.

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