International Criminal Court - File photo
CAIRO – 28 October 2017: Burundi became the first country in the world to withdraw from the International Criminal Court (ICC) on Friday. The African country’s withdrawal from the international organization came one month after a United Nations report that called for opening a criminal investigation on accusations of crimes against humanity in the country. Burundi accused the ICC of deliberately targeting Africans for prosecution.
The U.N. report was based on evidence found by a special commission of inquiry that assumed its investigations into Burundi last September. The commission found evidence of extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrest, detentions, disappearances and sexual violence during Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza’s term in office. Nkurunziza ran for a third presidential term in 2015. The country’s withdrawal doesn’t affect the ICC’s ongoing investigations into the country, but would challenge the role of the commission.
Two years ago, Burundi witnessed unrest as a result of Nkurunziza’s decision to run for office for a third time, which lead to protests by the opposition, who deemed it unconstitutional. According the U.N. report, the unrest in Burundi claimed between 500 and 2,000 lives, as well as the displacement of more than 400,000 Burundians.
Last year, Burundi, Gambia and South Africa threatened to withdraw from the ICC and prepared a statement accusing the court of being taken over by powerful western countries and acting as a proxy for foreign-led regime change. However, both countries revoked their withdrawals in March.
The ICC is the world’s only permanent war crimes tribunal. It was established in 2002 and is based in Hague, Netherlands. It is formed of 122 member states, 34 of which are African countries. The organization investigates and, where warranted, tries individuals charged with the gravest crimes of concern to the international community: genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.