The international war crimes court will investigate the violence linked to a political crisis that has plagued Burundi over the past year, which has left hundreds dead and forced hundreds of thousands to flee.
The violence was sparked in April 2015 when President Pierre Nkurunziza launched a bid for a third term and intensified after he won a disputed election in July. As this developed, three armed rebel groups emerged in the country. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights estimates that at least 430 people have been killed.
Announcing a preliminary examination by the International Criminal Court, prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said Monday that she had seen reports of rape, torture and imprisonment, as well as ongoing killings and enforced disappearances.
"All these acts appear to fall within the jurisdiction of the ICC," she said. "At least 3,400 people have been arrested and over 230,000 Burundians forced to seek refuge in neighboring countries."
From the onset of the conflict, Nkurunziza's opponents have maintained that his move is unconstitutional since presidents are only allowed to serve a maximum of two terms, thus violating the constitution and a peace agreement that ended the 1993-2005 civil war. However, Nkurunziza's supporters have argued that he has done nothing wrong and cite a court ruling that said he could run again.
The result of this ongoing debate has been tit-for-tat violence between the two factions that has left the country in shambles, while Western powers and regional states fear that this conflict could erupt into another civil war.
Their fears aren't unfounded either. Violent incidents have been commonplace - the most recent iteration came Monday when a senior army officer, Athanase Kararuza, was killed after his car was attacked by a rocket and gunfire in the capital Bujumbura. Nkurunziza condemned the killing and has vowed revenge on those who committed it.
The ICC investigates allegations of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide in states that have signed up to its founding treaty, the Rome Statute. Preliminary investigations, based mainly on publicly available information, can last months or years before leading to a possible full investigation. Once complete, then the body can bring criminal charges against individuals suspected of war crimes or crimes against humanity.
However, it has a very poor track record and has never successfully prosecuted a sitting head of state. The ICC has failed to follow through on an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir that has existed since 2009 and was recently forced to drop its last case against the leaders of regional power Kenya after a fierce lobbying campaign by the country and its African allies alleged that the court unfairly singled out Africans for prosecution.