The deadline for Burundi's total withdrawal from the International Criminal Court has arrived. Bujumbura rejoices while the families of the victims express disappointment.
Bujumbura government exults as it is now done with the International Criminal Court, a sword of Damocles hanging over its head. Burundi decided to withdraw from the Rome Statute on October 27, 2016. It took a year for the withdrawal to be complete. It's over now. This Wednesday, a few hours before the deadline, the government hosted a conference to taunt " the enemies of the country " who hatched plots with lies to influence the ICC, " said Philippe Nzobonariba, Secretary General of the Government.
The Burundian government has explained its reasons for withdrawing from the ICC. The Minister of Justice, Aimée Laurentine Kanyana said the court is "an instrument of pressure on the governments of poor countries, a way to destabilize them." Since the creation of the ICC, only nationals of African countries have been brought before the court as if the rest of the world is safe from the crimes it tackles. For the minister, the ICC's investigations are being carried out by great powers, some of whom have not even ratified the Rome Statute.
The straw that broke the camel's back is the preliminary examination decided by the International Criminal Court. For Bujumbura, this decision was taken under the pressure from the European Union. It based its withdrawal from the ICC on national sovereignty.
In any case, withdrawing from this court is taken by some analysts as a confirmation of guilt. Several international organizations have always denounced serious violations of human rights. And most recently, the UN commission of inquiry on Burundi has painted a rather damning picture of the human rights situation. Its president, Fatsah Ouguergouz spoke abofout crimes against humanity committed in the country. According to the commission, everything would lead to believe that President Pierre Nkurunziza as well as several high authorities of the country would be implicated in serious violations of human rights, even crimes against humanity. He asked the ICC to investigate these abuses, one of the reasons to settle this case once and for all.
Great disappointment for the victims
Since the outbreak of the 2015 crisis, the collective of lawyers of the families of the victims, has gone to the ICC and said to have filed more than 1,400 complaints and many testimonies of victims and witnesses. The International Criminal Court ruled on preliminary investigations in April 2016. Some victims are disappointed by the inaction of the international community. Despite pressure from civil society and international organizations, it has not decided to rule on the start of investigations. It is a kind of victory for Burundi government which felt apprehensive about the international justice.
Willy Nyamitwe: "Burundi will contribute to the struggle to invalidate the Rome Statute."
The Senior Advisor to the President expresses his "total satisfaction" as the withdrawal procedure comes to an end and the ICC page is turned. However, according to Willy Nyamitwe, this is only a won battle. What follows is that Burundi will contribute to the struggle to invalidate the Rome Statute, the ICC constituent treaty because it has turned out that instead of being a legal instrument, the ICC has become a weapon in the hands of the West to satisfy its desires and heinous appetites for hegemony. The recent revelations about the depth of corruption in this court are good grounds for Burundi's withdrawal.
Léonce Ngendakumana: "The international community must act."
The Vice-President of FRODEBU party does not think the international community is passive. Nevertheless, he asks it to note the gravity of the violations of human rights and act. Léonce Ngendakumana assures that in the face of Bujumbura's lack of cooperation, the Security Council should resort to Chapter 7 to force ICC to bring the culprits of the abuses before the international justice.
Aimée Laurentine Kanyana: "The Burundian justice is capable."
The Minister of Justice says Burundians have no worries about the withdrawal from Rome Statute.
Aimée-Laurentine Kanyana assures that in Burundi, no one is above the law. The country has many legal instruments capable of ruling on any case. The staff is competent; several judges have had the same professors as those of renowned universities. In addition, Burundian justice has so far cooperated with international bodies, including the ICC. Cases were sent to the court which took note of the work of the Burundian justice. "It quickly understood that we were able to solve the criminal cases by ourselves."
Pancrace Cimpaye: "The lack of responsibility of the international community."
The spokesman for the opposition platform in exile CNARED is disappointed that the withdrawal of Burundi from the Rome Statute is done without the ICC initiating investigations. "The basic logic would have been that the International Criminal Court takes things in its hands. According to Pancrace Cimpaye, there are still thousands of people killed by the government of Bujumbura. He deplores the lack of responsibility of the international community to stop further bloodshed of Burundians. It must act to end the cycle of impunity.
CNDD-FDD: "The victory of the people."
The information commissioner for the ruling party said CNDD-FDD congratulates the government of Burundi that listened to the voice of the people who urged this withdrawal. According to Nancy Ninette Mutoni, the people once again showed their unity and determination to support their institutions against this instrument of imperialists. "We salute this attachment of the people to the elected institutions, we rejoice in this victory of the people." CNDD-FDD also congratulates the Burundian justice and encourages it to work well to consolidate the rule of law for the good of the people. "Our party has justice in its motto."
Armel Niyongere: "The crimes will not go unpunished."
"It is true that we have waited for the opening of the investigation until October 27 to have Burundi's cooperation with the Court," said Armel Niyongere, one of the lawyers of the victims' families who lodged a complaint at the ICC. According to him, it should be known that even after Burundi's day of withdrawal from the Rome Statute, the ICC will still be competent to initiate an investigation. He deplored the fact that Burundi would not be obliged to cooperate. Concerning the crimes committed in Burundi, he says the group of lawyers seized other African and UN institutions for the protection of human rights, among others the Working Group on Enforced Disappearances and the African Commission on Human Rights and People. "We are convinced that the crimes committed in Burundi will not go unpunished."
Alternatives to the ICC:
- Burundi may experience a turnaround and ask the International Criminal Court to change its position. International crimes for which there is no statute of limitations.
Ex: A change of regime.
- African countries may decide to create a mixed court or a special chamber.
Ex: The special chamber of Dakar that tried the former president of Chad.
- The Security Council can take the initiative to seize the ICC, even if a country has not ratified the Rome Statute.
Ex: Omar El Bashir, the Sudanese president has an arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court without withdrawal from the ICC.
The limits of the ICC:
-The International Criminal Court cannot know the crimes committed before its inception in 2002. The non-retroactivity of the law obliges.
In principle, the ICC can only exercise its jurisdiction if the person charged is a national of a Member State, or if the alleged crime is committed on the territory of a Member State, or if the case is transmitted by the United Nations Security Council.
- The implementation of ICC mandates depends on the cooperation between States. The court has no police to track down the alleged culprits.
- The ICC is under the regime of public international law and there, the support of the great powers counts. Ex: Burundi has the support of China and Russia, one of the reasons for blocking the European Union resolutions on Burundi in the Security Council.
-The solidarity among African leaders who stand in the way of one of their peers, maybe not to suffer the same fate afterwards.
Ex: The Sudanese President, who is under arrest warrant from the ICC, circulates in African states without being worried.
- The ICC is accused of targeting mainly leaders of African countries, forgetting world leaders who are also accused of serious crimes.
By Agnès Ndirubusa. Translated by Pierre Emmanuel Ngendakumana