BUJUMBURA, Burundi (AP) — Burundi will withdraw from the International Criminal Court, months after the court said it will investigate violence sparked by President Pierre Nkurunziza’s re-election, an official said. No country has ever withdrawn from the court, which pursues cases of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Burundi’s government has presented a draft law in parliament to debate how it can withdraw, First Vice President Gaston Sindimwo said Thursday. He accused the court of violating the rights of Africans.
Some African countries have threatened a withdrawal from the Rome Statute, the treaty that created the ICC, accusing the court of disproportionately targeting the continent. Only Africans have been charged in the six cases that are ongoing or about to begin, though preliminary investigations have begun elsewhere.
Of the 122 countries that are parties to the Rome Statute, 34 are African, the largest continental bloc.
“This is posturing. All a member state country needs to do to leave is write to the U.N. secretary-general saying they wish to withdraw from the ICC, and a year after the day the secretary-general receives the letter the country will no longer be a member,” said Tom Maliti with the New York-based International Justice Monitor, which tracks ICC cases.
An ICC spokesman said the court has not received any official information about a possible withdrawal by any state. “Burundi is an important state party, and we look forward to Burundi continuing to be part of the ICC’s future,” Fadi El Abdallah said.
Hundreds have died in Burundi since Nkurunziza pursued and won a third term that many call unconstitutional. Since his candidacy was announced in April 2015, Burundi has seen violent protests, forced disappearances and assassinations. More than 260,000 have fled.
The ICC in April said it will investigate.
African threats to withdraw from ICC rose after the court indicted Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta on charges of crimes against humanity for 2007 post-election violence in which more than 1,000 died. The ICC prosecutor said the lack of cooperation by Kenya’s government led to the case’s collapse.
Associated Press writer Mike Corder in Amsterdam contributed.