SINCE President Pierre Nkurunziza threw his county into turmoil in April 2015 by announcing he would run for a constitutionally dodgy third term in office, violence in Burundi has claimed hundreds of lives and prompted hundreds of thousands to flee the country.
“Extrajudicial executions, arbitrary arrests and detention, torture, sexual violence, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and enforced disappearances” continue to take place in the central African state, according to the final report of a UN Commission of Enquiry, which said these acts mostly likely amounted to crimes against humanity.
The report said government soldiers, police, intelligence agents, and the youth wing of the ruling party were behind most of the abuses. Burundi refused to cooperate with the commission or to let it into the country, even though it is itself a member of the body that established it, the UN’s Human Rights Council.
The council opens one of its thrice-yearly regular sessions in Geneva on Monday, where the Burundi report will be discussed. The commission called for the International Criminal Court to escalate its role in Burundi from a “preliminary examination” to an actual investigation, which could open the door to prosecutions.
Will the UN Security Council take up commission president Fatsah Ouguergouz’s suggestion that it make that happen with a formal referral of the Burundi case to the ICC? Or will other countries apply the principle of universal jurisdiction to hold perpetrators in Burundi to account?