Burundi parliament votes to quit ICC

Burundi would be the first country to quit the tribunal if president approves the parliament’s decision.

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

The departure becomes effective one year after the receipt of a written formal notice of withdrawal, but it does not affect ongoing investigations.

Burundi’s parliament voted on Wednesday to leave the International Criminal Court (ICC), taking the nation a step closer to being the first ever to quit the tribunal.

The move widens a bitter dispute with the international community over the human rights situation in the country. Burundi has been mired in a violent political crisis since April 2015 when President Pierre Nkurunziza decided to seek a third term in office.

Ninety-four out of 110 Burundi lawmakers voted in favour of the plan, while only two voted against. The decision, which also was unanimously adopted by the country’s upper house, is expected to be approved by Nkurunziza later this week.

Gabriel Ntisezerana, a parliament member who voted in favour of the withdrawal, said the tribunal is "a political tool used by powers to remove whoever they want from power on the African continent."

Earlier in this year, the ICC opened an investigation into Burundi, focusing on killings, imprisonment, torture, sexual violence and enforced disappearances.

Since April 2015, an estimated 1,000 people have been killed in the violence.

Since it was founded in 2002, the ICC has focused on prosecuting politically-motivated crimes such as genocide and crimes against humanity.

It has faced criticism from many governments in Africa because most of its investigations and indictments have been of Africans.

The nine countries which have come under investigation are Kenya, Ivory Coast, Libya, Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, Uganda, Mali and Georgia.

According to the Rome Statute which established the ICC, any country which wants to leave has to inform the UN secretary general in writing.

Earlier this week Burundi cut its ties with the UN’s main rights body, and declared three UN investigators persona non grata.

These moves were in response to a UN report in which detailed atrocities in the central African country naming some officials accused of orchestrating the torture and killing of political opponents.

ICC says at least 3,400 people have been arrested between April 2015 and 2016.

Nkurunziza’s decision to run for a third term plunged the nation into its biggest crisis since a civil war between Hutu and Tutsi communities ended in 2005.

Opponents said his candidacy violated the constitution. Nkurunziza won a third term after most of the opposition boycotted the July 2015 elections.

TRTWorld and agencies