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Burundi becomes first country to withdraw from ICC

Burundi has withdrawn its membership of the International Criminal Court (ICC), a year after it notified the global judicial institution of its intention.

A file picture taken on 14 December 2006 in Nairobi at the UN-sponsored conference on the Great Lakes Region shows Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza. Burundi’s presidency said an attempted coup by a top general had “failed” on May 13, 2015 and pro-president Burundi troops at state broadcaster fire warning shots over the heads of hundreds of protesters, an AFP reporter said. Burundian general Godefroid Niyombare on May 13 announced the overthrow of President Pierre Nkurunziza, following weeks of violent protests against the president’s bid to stand for a third term. President Nkurunziza flew to Tanzania earlier Wednesday to meet regional leaders on the political crisis in his country but a coup was launched against him hours after his departure. AFP PHOTO

With the notification, Burundi becomes the first country to leave the ICC.

The East African country had accused the ICC of deliberately targeting Africans for prosecution.

In September, the UN Commission of Inquiry into Burundi accused the government of committing crimes against humanity, including executions and torture, and urged the ICC to open a prosecution as soon as possible.

Fadi El-Abdallah, the spokesman for the ICC, told the BBC Newsday programme that the withdrawal would not affect the court’s ongoing investigations in the country.

“Article 127 states that withdrawal does not affect the jurisdiction of the ICC over the crimes that have been committed while the state was a state party,” he said.

The court has 122 member countries, 34 are African, the largest continental bloc.

In 2015, Burundi was plunged into its worst crisis since the end of a civil war in 2005, when President Pierre Nkurunziza’s push for a third term in office sparked protests by opposition supporters who said the move was unconstitutional.

The South African government which had intended to withdraw from ICC revoked its intended withdrawal.

The decision came weeks after the Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg ruled that the country’s move was unconstitutional and invalid,

The country’s Gauteng High Court ruled that only Parliament has the power to approve the withdrawal, and not President Jacob Zuma and his cabinet.

“In order to adhere to the said judgment‚ I hereby revoke the Instrument of Withdrawal from the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court with immediate effect‚” a document deposited to the United Nations by South African International Relations and Cooperation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane said.

Government sources on Thursday said Justice Minister Michael Masutha is set to appear in parliament at an undisclosed date to discuss the High Court ruling that found that the withdrawal was unconstitutional and invalid.

In February, the court ordered President Jacob Zuma‚ Nkoana-Mashabane and Masutha to revoke the notice of withdrawal.

This was after the main opposition Democratic Alliance approached the court last year to challenge Pretoria’s decision to withdraw from the ICC by notifying the UN of its intention to revoke its ratification of the Rome Statute‚ which established the ICC.

On 21 October 2016, Masutha had announced that South Africa had initiated the process of withdrawing from the ICC.

The decision followed several court judgments that the state violated the law by not arresting war crimes-suspect and Sudanese President, Omar al-Bashir‚ who has been indicted by the ICC‚ during his African Union summit visit to South Africa in June 2015.

 


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