Over the last few years, quite a number of African countries have been threatening to leave the International Criminal Court (ICC). Burundi is among these countries, and they have finally left the ICC. The country announced its plans to withdraw a year ago and has finally decided to stand by that plan.
The withdrawal has left critics viewing it as a "setback in the fight against impunity." With this development, Burundi has become the first nation to pull out from the ICC. Because of Pierre Nkurunzinza's alleged war crimes in the country (he is the current president of the country) the court had made overtures in launching investigations against the president.
Burundi then sent its application to then General-Secretary of the United Nations, Ban ki Moon seeking to pull out from the international court. The possible war crimes that the court wanted to investigate were in connection with the Nkurunzinza's term extension. Currently, Nkurunzinza is seeking to extend his rule, which will see him leave office in 2034.
Burundi is not the only country under the Rome statute to declare intentions to leave the ICC. Last year, the Gambia's then president Yayha Jammeh had initiated the process to leave the ICC. This did not come to fruition and the process was revoked by the current president of the Gambia, Adama Barrow. Jammeh's argument was that the court is biased against Africans, and that was the basis of his application to withdraw from the ICC.
Other African countries which include Kenya, Uganda and Zambia have tried to pull out of the ICC but this has not materialized. South Africa last year also tried to initiate the process of pulling out but this was revoked by the high court, which cited that it was unconstitutional and invalid.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.
The country has nonetheless gone ahead with the withdrawal and it is apparent no amount of persuasion could stop them from their decision.
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.
The Human Rights Watch has criticized the country's move, saying that the country has no regard for its 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.