Burundi threatens to withdraw from international criminal court

Associated Press in Bujumbura

2681Court said in April it would investigate violence sparked by President Pierre Nkurunziza’s re-election last year

Burundi will withdraw from the international criminal court, an official has said, months after the court said it would investigate violence sparked by President Pierre Nkurunziza’s re-election.

No country has ever withdrawn from the court, which pursues cases of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Burundi’s first vice-president, Gaston Sindimwo, said the government had presented a draft law in parliament to debate how it could withdraw. He accused the court of violating the rights of Africans.

Some African countries have threatened a withdrawal from the Rome statute, the treaty that created the ICC, accusing the court of disproportionately targeting the continent. Only Africans have been charged in the six cases that are ongoing or about to begin, though preliminary investigations have begun elsewhere.

Of the 122 countries that are parties to the Rome statute, 34 are African, the largest continental bloc.

Tom Maliti, of the New York-based International Justice Monitor, which tracks ICC cases, said: “This is posturing. All a member state country needs to do to leave is write to the UN secretary general saying they wish to withdraw from the ICC, and a year after the day the secretary general receives the letter, the country will no longer be a member.”

An ICC spokesman, Fadi El Abdallah, said the court had not received any official information about a possible withdrawal by any state. “Burundi is an important state party, and we look forward to Burundi continuing to be part of the ICC’s future,” El Abdallah said.

Hundreds of people have died in Burundi since Nkurunziza pursued and won a third term that many call unconstitutional. Since his candidacy was announced in April 2015, there have been violent protests, forced disappearances and assassinations. More than 260,000 people have fled the country. The ICC said in April it would investigate.

African threats to withdraw from ICC increased after the court indicted Kenya’s president, Uhuru Kenyatta, on charges of crimes against humanity for post-election violence in 2007 in which more than 1,000 people died. The ICC prosecutor later said a lack of cooperation by Kenya’s government had led to the case’s collapse.

– The Guradian

 

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