27 October 2017

Burundi Withdraws From the International Criminal Court

Photo: Rick Bajornas/UN Photo
A view of the International Criminal Court (ICC) premises.

Burundi has become the first country to withdraw from the International Criminal Court (ICC). The country announced its plan to withdraw a year ago. The withdrawal is seen as "a setback in the fight against impunity"

Burundi has become the first country to withdraw from the International Criminal Court (ICC). The country announced its plan to withdraw a year ago.

Last year, Burundi sent its application to the then United Nations Secretary General Ban ki Moon after the court made a decision to initiate an investigation into possible war crimes in connection to President Pierre Nkurunziza's term extension.

While it is the only country to exit the Rome Statute, it was not the first to initiate the process. The Gambia, under President Yahya Jammeh, initiated the process basing the decision that the court is biased against African countries.

President Adama Barrow revoked The Gambia's application.

Making history: Burundi the first country to ditch the ICC. (Photo: Dave Proffer via https://www.flickr.com/photos/deepphoto/)

South Africa also started the process in 2016 but a high court revoked the decision, stating it was unconstitutional and invalid.

A number of other countries, including Kenya, Uganda and Zambia also threatened to exit the court but did not go ahead with the application.

Read: South Africa high court rules ICC withdrawal plan as unconstitutional and invalid

Last year when Burundi initiated the withdrawal, the President of the Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute of the ICC, Sidiki Kaba, expressed concern about this development. "The withdrawal from the Statute by a State Party would represent a setback in the fight against impunity and the efforts towards the objective of universality of the Statute," indicated President Kaba. "I remind that all States Parties have the opportunity to share their concerns before the Assembly of States Parties in accordance with the Statute and invite the Burundian authorities to engage in a dialogue," Kaba noted in a statement last year.

However, these concerns have fallen on deaf ears as the country has gone ahead with the withdrawal.

Burundi's withdrawal does not impede the ICC's ongoing bid to investigate the country.

The exit comes at a time when Burundi is undergoing human rights violations. Just last month the United Nations Human Rights Council Meeting adopted two resolutions by the European Union and a group of African Countries to get information on human rights violations in Burundi.

In a report, the UN independent Commission of Inquiry accused Burundian authority of crimes against humanity. It called on to the ICC to open an investigation into the country.

Announcement of the withdrawal has caused various reactions, with human rights organisations criticising the country. Human Rights Watch said the move showed the country's disregard for the victims.

"Burundi has failed to hold people responsible for brutal crimes to account and has sunk to a new low by attempting to deny victims justice before the ICC. This latest move only confirms Burundi's continuing disregard for human rights and the rule of law," said Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch in a statement.

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