Burundi

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Nearly 300 000 have fled Burundi since the election-related violence of April 2015 to refugee camps in Tanzania (Photo: Flickr/EU/ECHO/Anouk Delafortrie)
23 October 2017 by Benjamin Duerr, The Hague (The Netherlands)

As Burundi becomes the first country to leave the International Criminal Court (ICC) this week, the withdrawal is a test case for the commitment of the international community to global justice. Will there be consequences for the country?

The first ever member state is about to leave the ICC silently. About a year ago the Burundian government decided to withdraw from the Rome Statute, the ICC's founding treaty. It notified the United Nations, where the treaty is deposited, and now, one year later on 27 October, the withdrawal comes into effect.

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Families of disappeared persons, murder victims and victims of human rights abuses during a visit of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to Coahuila Mexico in September 2015 (Photo: Flickr/Ginnette Riquelme/CIDH)
26 September 2017 by Janet H. Anderson, The Hague (The Netherlands)

Every few weeks it seems one NGO or another is lobbying to get its issue onto the agenda of the ICC’s prosecutor. It’s a tribute to the way that the International Criminal Court has come to be seen as an avenue for justice. But it also means that there’s a lot of noise, without necessarily much action. 

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South African president Jacob Zuma with his Burundi counterpart Pierre Nkurunziza in February 2016 (Photo: Flickr/GCIS)
24 October 2016 by Benjamin Duerr

Two countries announced their withdrawal from the International Criminal Court (ICC) last week. The decisions of the governments of Burundi and South Africa are motivated by domestic politics and fit a broader development seen in other countries: scapegoating international affairs for local failures.

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ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda (Photo: Flickr/ICC-CPI)
20 October 2016 by Benjamin Duerr

After the president of Burundi signed a law to leave the International Criminal Court (ICC) on Tuesday, the central African country is likely to become the first state to withdraw from the court's founding treaty. Now, experts say, both Burundi and the ICC, will get caught up in making largely symbolic moves in a race against time.

When Pierre Nkurunziza signed law no 1/14 of 18 October 2016, he became the world's first president to lead his country out of the ICC. With his signature under the “law concerning the withdrawal of the Republic of Burundi from the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court” the president approved previous decisions by the senate and the national assembly. This is the first time a country has decided to leave the court which opened its doors in 2002. Burundi has been in turmoil and on the radar of the international community since early 2015. Both the ICC and the United Nations are looking into the violence there which has left hundreds of people dead.[IJT- 194]

 
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Burundi's President Pierre Nkurunziza talks to the press following a meeting with a UN Security Council delegation that came to reiterate the need for an inclusive dialogue to end months of political turmoil. (Photo: Flickr/ MONUSCO)
07 June 2016 by Benjamin Duerr, The Hague (The Netherlands)

At the end of April, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) opened a preliminary examination in Burundi. As the situation has been deteriorating for the past year with experts fearing the outbreak of a full-fledged civil war, Burundi could become a real-life test for the ICC's ability to deter atrocities. Some argue there is evidence the move of the prosecutor has already had an impact on the conflict.

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Exhumations from May 2015 on a Periprava site believed to be a graveyard for camp victims (Photo: IICCMER)
03 June 2015

IJT 183 delves into an emotional trial in Romania in which Communist labour camp survivors confront their ex-commander.

Other features:

  • The first-ever ICTR trial transfer could be recalled from Rwanda
  • A new museum at a former detention centre reignites Argentina's debate on memorials
  • The world wrongly gambled on peace without justice in Burundi, says transitional justice expert in a Q&A

News brief:

  • Ivorian ex-first lady Simone Gbagbo is still wanted in The Hague
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United Nations Operation in Burundi disarms rebel forces in Mbanda in February 2005 (Photo: Flickr/UN Photo/Martine Perret)
03 June 2015 by Janet H. Anderson, The Hague (The Netherlands)

Over the last month, Burundi has hit the headlines as the president put himself forward to be elected for a controversial third term, resulting in street protests, thousands of refugees who fled instability and an attempted coup. Behind the issues of elections and constitutionalism are also those of justice following Burundi’s long-running civil war. The international community supported an intensive process of negotiation and the signing of the Arusha Accord in 2000. But in the decade and a half since, its provisions on justice have been debated though never fully implemented.

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10 October 2005 by Thierry Cruvellier

The dual mechanism to establish crimes and responsibilities in Burundi will take longer to put into place than first announced. IJT has learnt that on 30 September, Kofi Annan will not be submitting his report to the UN Security Council on the creation of the special chamber to try those responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity, and in parallel, a truth commission. [see IJT-23]. It is now widely accepted that more time is needed to consult the nation and its leadership in the light of the recent political upheavals in Burundi.

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06 October 2010 by Stef Vandeginste

With a successfully completed peace process followed by general elections in the summer of 2010, the case of Burundi seemingly contradicted the conventional wisdom that there can be no peace without justice. In fact, despite a rhetorical commitment to establishing transitional justice mechanisms, no action has so far been undertaken to end impunity for past human rights crimes.

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10 July 2006 by Didace Kanyugu

A United Nations delegation traveled to Bujumbura from March 27-31 to continue negotiations in writing with the Burundian government with a view to establishing a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and a Special Tribunal. On May 19, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs laid out the main points to be discussed. The Burundian government responded on June 15. The negotiations appear to center on the scope of the criminal proceedings and the issue of oversight.

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