International Criminal Court Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda has put the Burundian leaders on notice as pre-election political violence threatens to spiral out of control ahead of the June 26 presidential elections.
Ms Bensouda said as witnessed in Kenya and Ivory Coast, electoral competition, when gone astray, can trigger large-scale crimes falling under the jurisdiction of the ICC.
“In such instances, my office will not hesitate to open investigations in accordance with the criteria set by the Rome Statute.
“Any person who incites or engages in acts of mass violence including by ordering, requesting, encouraging or contributing in any other manner to the commission of crimes within ICC's jurisdiction is liable to prosecution before the court,” Ms Bensouda said in a statement on May 8.
She said Burundi has been a party to the Rome Statute since 2004 and crimes committed by the parties in the crises could come under investigation by the court.
“The primary responsibility to investigate and prosecute perpetrators of mass crimes falls, in the first instance, on the national authorities. That failing, however, no one should doubt my resolve to investigate and prosecute individuals responsible for committing crimes under ICC jurisdiction,” said Ms Bensouda.
She said political leaders in Burundi are responsible for ensuring the elections are conducted peacefully and their supporters refrain from violence before, during and after the elections.
“My office, in accordance with its mandate under the Rome Statute, will be closely following developments in Burundi in the weeks to come and record any instance of incitement or resort to violence,” Ms Bensouda said.