When Burundi became the first country to withdraw from the International Criminal Court less than two weeks ago, its leaders thought they had successfully avoided an inquiry into egregious crimes including murder, torture and rape.
They apparently miscalculated.
The court announced Thursday that a pretrial panel of judges had authorized the prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, to open an investigation concerning crimes committed while Burundi was a member.
The judges also said that Ms. Bensouda had the authority to investigate any related crimes committed since Burundi’s withdrawal, “if certain legal requirements are met.”
Burundi’s legal obligation to cooperate, the judges said, “remains in effect for as long as the investigation lasts and encompasses any proceedings resulting from the investigation.”
Their announcement said the judges had given approval for the inquiry on Oct. 25 — two days before Burundi’s withdrawal from the court took effect — but that the decision had remained under court seal until Thursday to protect victims and potential witnesses.