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Burundi withdraws from ICC
November 5, 2017, 1:56 pm

One year after it notified the court of its intention to leave, Burundi became the first country to pullout of the International Criminal Court (ICC). Following a one-year withdrawal process, Burundi’s exit from the ICC took effect last Friday.

Burundi, a landlocked country in East Africa, had decided to withdraw from The Hague-based international forum, alleging among other things that the court tended to predominantly target African nations and their leaders.

The country notified former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon of its intent to leave the court on 27 October, 2016, along with two other African countries, South Africa and The Gambia. Both South Africa and The Gambia later withdrew their withdrawals.

Burundi, a former German and Belgian colony, has been in a state of deadly political turmoil since 2015, when protests broke out after President Pierre Nkurunziza was elected to the third term in a disputed election held in July 2015, without the participation of the opposition.

A UN commission of inquiry said last month that crimes against humanity, including killings and sexual violence, were still being committed in Burundi. The commission asked the ICC to open an investigation as soon as possible. The ongoing violence and unrest have forced hundreds of thousands to leave the country.

The ICC, which was established to prosecute the world's worst atrocities, has said Burundi's withdrawal does not affect the preliminary examination of the country's situation already being undertaken by the court's prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda.

Many African nations have long accused the court of being biased against Africa, with the overwhelming majority of its investigations targeting the continent. In February 2017, the African Union (AU) called at a summit for a mass withdrawal of member states, but the resolution was not legally binding and was opposed by Nigeria and Senegal.

A total of 123 nations are currently signatories to the Rome Statute that founded the ICC; among the notable exceptions are the United States, Russia, China and India, all of whom have either not ratified or signed the Rome Statute.


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