phase: Situations & Cases
The situation in Burundi focuses on alleged atrocity crimes committed during a political crisis which involved Burundi government forces, pro-government armed groups (CNDD-FDD-ruling political party, Imbonerakure-CNDD-FDD’s youth wing), and protest groups (opposition political parties and citizens). The political crisis occurred from April 2015 to the present, and remains at risk for violence in light of the upcoming Parliamentary and Presidential elections in May 2020.
On April 25, 2015, President Pierre Nkurunziza announced that he would run for a third term which sparked violent clashes between Burundi government forces and protesters and an attempted military coup. Protesters argued that Nkurunziza was barred from running for a third term under the constitution which states the president may only serve two terms. Nkurunziza supporters argued that his first term was by parliamentary vote not by electoral vote, so he had only served one term by election and was eligible to run for another term by election. On July 21, 2015, amidst shootings and explosions, the presidential election was held. On July 24, 2015, President Nkurunziza was re-elected. Burundi government forces and pro-government armed groups, particularly the Imbonerakure, sought to gain control through killings, torture, forced disappearances, and forced detentions, and targeted women for rape, sexual violence, and mutilations. In addition to the killing of an opposition leader in May 2015, an opposition spokesperson and an opposition leader were killed in September 2015. The UN Independent Investigation on Burundi (UNIIB) reported that the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) verified 564 executions (April 2015–August 2016).
Burundi was a State Party to the International Criminal Court (ICC) and ratified the Rome Statute on September 21, 2004. On April 25, 2016, after receiving communications of alleged atrocity crimes committed in Burundi, the ICC Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) opened a preliminary examination. In October 2016, Burundi’s Parliament voted to withdraw from the ICC and notified the UN Secretary General of the withdrawal. Withdrawal from the ICC becomes effective one year after withdrawal notification to the UN Secretary General, unless otherwise specified, under Article 127(1) of the Rome Statute. A State is not discharged, by reason of its withdrawal, from its obligations under the Rome Statute including the duty to cooperate with investigations and proceedings which were commenced prior to the date on which the withdrawal became effective under Article 127(2) of the Rome Statute. Burundi’s withdrawal from the Rome Statute became effective on October 27, 2017.
On October 25, 2017, Pre-Trial Chamber III authorized the Prosecutor’s request pursuant to Art. 15(3) to open an investigation in Burundi. The Prosecutor opened an investigation proprio motu into alleged crimes against humanity committed in Burundi or in other countries by nationals of Burundi. The focus of the investigation is alleged crimes of murder and attempted murder, imprisonment or severe deprivation of liberty, torture, rape, enforced disappearance, and persecution committed between April 26, 2015 and October 26, 2017.
The investigation is ongoing.
For more information on the situation in Burundi, please visit the ICC page.