Burundi leaves the International Criminal Court
Today, Burundi’s withdrawal from the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) will come into effect – a sad precedent for international justice.
Exactly one year ago, Burundi announced its intention to leave the ICC, the first permanent organ competent to judge the gravest crimes. This announcement was followed by similar declarations from the Gambia and South Africa, but both countries have backpedaled since and chose to remain under the Court’s jurisdiction.
“We are disappointed that Burundi stubbornly continued on that path, in spite of its civil society’s strong mobilization”, says Pamela Capizzi, Head of the Burundi program at TRIAL International. “Just like with the UN Commission of Inquiry, the government has walled itself into contrariness and opposition.”
From enthusiasm to defiance
This divorce is all the more disappointing because Burundi, like many other African States, had been instrumental to the ICC’s creation. While European countries were skeptical about the success of such an endeavor, they drummed up and led a proactive campaign for international justice.
How to explain this U-turn? “The fact is that a strong-willed international justice is disruptive. Some States perhaps thought that their own creation would not turn against them, that it would be confined to trying their opponents. By opening a preliminary examination on Burundi last April, the Office of the Prosecutor of the ICC showed that it would not be the case”, explains Philip Grant, TRIAL International’ Director.
Burundi’s withdrawal will not impede the ICC’s ongoing preliminary examination. If the criteria are fulfilled, it could still lead to the opening of an inquiry and, if applicable, a trial.