Research and education think tank, Africa Center for International Law and Accountability (ACILA), has welcomed the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) decision to open a preliminary investigation into the violence in Burundi which left about 430 people dead and displaced more than 200,000 Burundians.
In a statement, Executive Director of ACILA, William Nyarko, said that the ICC’s decision is the best cause of action to kick-start justice for victims of the atrocities and their families and to bring the perpetrators to justice, adding that it is regrettable that the Burundian government, on whose watch the killings occurred, had shown that it was unwilling to bring the perpetrators of the mass killings to justice.
“The absence of post-facto accountability in international criminal justice perpetuates impunity and we must not allow this state of affairs to continue in Africa. We urge the ICC to investigate all sides in the conflict and bring the perpetrators to account”, Nyarko said.
The statement comes following an announcement on Monday by ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda that the ICC was opening an investigation into the violence which broke out in April 2015 after Burundian President, Pierre Nkurunziza, announced a third term bid.
As the violence escalated, both the UN and Africa Union sent fact-finding delegations to Burundi to assess the situation, with both delegations expressing deep concern about extra-judicial killings, enforced disappearances, and displacement of Burundians.
The AU secretariat initially proposed to deploy 5,000 peacekeeping troops to Burundi in December 2015, but the proposal was rejected by President Nkurunziza, who threatened to consider the AU deployment as an invasion. “If these troops come, it will be seen as an attack and the country will stand up to defend itself,” he said on national radio.
In February 2016, the AU decided at the AU Summit in Addis Ababa not to deploy the troops until Burundi consented to the deployment. No further action has since been taken by the Burundian government or AU.