A global human rights umbrella organisation has welcomed the news that a group of lawyers representing families of victims of killings and torture in Burundi has handed 124 new warrants –or "referrals" – to the International Criminal Court (ICC).
By bringing these referrals forwards, the lawyers are hoping the Hague-based international war crimes court will decide reasonable basis exist to open an investigation into crimes committed in the country, which has been plagued by unrest for the past 21 months.
The bloody crisis that has killed up to thousands of people, pits supporters of President Pierre Nkurunziza against those who say that his re-election in July 2015 for a third term violated the nation's constitution.
The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) coined the new warrants "a new positive turn" in the quest for justice of the victims of the government's crackdown men and women accused of participating in or supporting opposition groups.
FIDH's Africa Desk Director, Florent Geel, told IBTimes UK: "It is important that we all demonstrate, with a lot of serious, how bad the situation was and is."
According to data given to IBTimes UK by the FIDH, the organisation has reported 52 assassinations, 21 cases of forced disappearances, at least 66 cases of torture, 446 arbitrary arrests, and eight cases of sexual violence between January and March.
During the same period, the FIDH also documented the discovery of 46 unidentified bodies in different provinces of the country which were "most often buried upon the orders of local authorities and before any (autopsy) or investigation could be carried out".
It is worth noting that the signing of these referrals in no way obliges the ICC to open an investigation.
For the FIDH, more pressure needs to be exerted for the ICC to open an investigation into the alleged crimes against humanity committed in the country before October which marks a year since Burundi announced its withdrawal from the court. Under the ICC's founding Rome Statute, withdrawal does not come into effect until one year after the state has formally announced its decision to the UN Secretary General.
"Morally, the ICC doesn't really have a choice but to open an investigation before that date," Geel said.
In a first since families officially mandated the group of lawyers to bring cases in front of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the ICC in March 2016, Maingain confirmed the leadership of opposition party Forces nationales de libération (FNL) also instructed the lawyers to hand warrants to the ICC on the behalf of 431 families.
The FNL was a former rebel group that became a political party in April 2009. Since the beginning of the crisis, security forces and Imbonerakure, the ruling party's youth wing, arrested, beaten, or attacked FNL members across the country.
"This shows that the FNL is today still targeted, probably because of its capacity to mobilise the military, and because of the fact that some of its branches, during the 2015 protests, were reported to have supported a number of individuals who had fallen into urban guerrilla," Geel explained. "The targeted assassinations of former military officers, and opposition supporters, such as FNL, outside the capital, continue."
The new referrals come in a broader context of a hostility shown by several African states, including the African Union, towards the ICC, which they perceive as having an anti-African bias. However, the case also follows the fact that, despite earlier announcements, Gambia and South Africa will remain in the ICC.