The Africa Group for Justice and Accountability (AGJA) expresses its deep regret over the official withdrawal of Burundi from the International Criminal Court (ICC). Burundi’s withdrawal undermines the system of international justice and closes an important potential avenue to justice for victims and survivors of abuses in the country.
The government of Burundi submitted its notice of withdrawal from the ICC to the United Nations Secretary General on 27 October 2016, to take effect one year later (today). When Burundi first intimated its intention to withdraw from the ICC, the AGJA implored the government to remain committed and to continue to cooperate with the Court.
The deteriorating situation in Burundi had been under preliminary examination since 25 April 2016. When ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda initiated a preliminary examination, she acknowledged reports that more than 430 persons had been killed, at least 3,400 people arrested, and that over 230,000 Burundians had been forced to seek refuge in neighbouring countries. Estimates suggest that over 400,000 citizens have now fled the country. As outlined by the United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Burundi, there are reasonable grounds to believe that the crimes perpetrated in Burundi amount to crimes against humanity. The Commission of Inquiry further requested the ICC to open an official investigation into alleged crimes perpetrated in Burundi. However, the ICC’s Prosecutor has apparently decided not to open an investigation into the situation in Burundi and, with the country’s withdrawal, that option now appears closed.
As it has since its creation, the AGJA strongly encourages cooperation between African states and the International Criminal Court. In line with its Kilimanjaro Principles, the Africa Group offers its expertise in facilitation and mediation to Burundi, the ICC, and other relevant actors to ensure that justice for the victims of crimes in Burundi is not sacrificed.
Burundi’s withdrawal from the ICC today cannot and will not be the end of the pursuit for accountability for the victims and survivors of abuses in Burundi. The AGJA stands in solidarity with them and stands prepared to ensure their aspirations for justice can one day become a reality.