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Burundi rejects International Criminal Court war crimes investigation

From Reuters - November 10, 2017

AMSTERDAM/NAIROBI (Reuters) - Burundi said on Friday it will refuse to cooperate with an International Criminal Court (ICC) investigation into war crimesprosecutors suspect were committed by forces loyal to President Pierre Nkurunzizas government against their political opponents.

The court ordered a formal investigation on Thursday into crimes committed between April 2015 to October 2017.

But experts say it will be hard for ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda to gather evidence without support from Burundis government, which last month became the first to withdraw from the Hague-based court amid waning support from African nations.

An earlier ICC case in Kenya fell apart due to opposition from the government of President Uhuru Kenyatta. Like Burundi, Kenya and South Africa have threatened to withdraw from the court, arguing that it disproportionately targets Africans.

The government rejects that decision (to investigate) and reiterates its firm determination that it will not cooperate, said Burundis Justice Minister Aimee Laurentine Kanyana.

Unrest has gripped Burundi since Nkurunziza said in April 2015 he would seek a third term in office, triggering protests and a crackdown by security forces.

He won re-election that July but opponents boycotted the vote, saying his decision to stand violated the constitution and the terms of a peace agreement that had ended a war in the central African country.

The ICC says that under international law it still has jurisdiction over crimes committed while Burundi was a member.

Judges said Bensouda should investigate whether crimes against humanity were committed including murder, torture, rape and persecution.

Government forces are suspected to have killed more than 1,000 people and displaced 400,000 during the crackdown. Human rights groups say the number killed could be far higher.

UPHILL FIGHT

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