Burundi’s lower house of parliament has voted in support of a withdrawal from the International Criminal Court (ICC), after the court’s chief prosecutor had announced last April a preliminary investigation of the ongoing situation in Burundi, where hundreds of people have died in violent street protests and political killings.
This has been the first step towards a full investigation in which the government has been blamed for murder, torture, rape and forced disappearances. In August, Burundi also rejected the proposed deployment of more than 200 United Nations police officers to monitor the country’s social instability.
Burundi has been plagued by violence since April 2015, when the current president Pierre Nkurunziza tried a third term despite massive protests by citizens who defined the move as unconstitutional. Hundreds have been killed in the uprisings.
Many African leaders see the court as a European postcolonial tool to beat up on Africa and have repeatedly threatened withdrawal from the Rome Statute, the treaty that created the ICC. Nevertheless, no country has ever withdrawn from the ICC.
Under the Rome Statute, a country that seeks to exit its jurisdiction must formally write to the United Nations secretary general stating its intention. The formal process that comes after could go on as long as a year.