Burundi Becomes the First Nation to Withdraw from the ICC

Unrest triggered by Nkuruzinza's continued rule has already gripped Burundi for two and a half years, leaving the economy moribund, killing hundreds and forcing about 400,000 people to seek safety in neighbouring countries.

Gambia and South Africa had announced their withdrawal in 2016.

An ICC spokesman said the withdrawal would be effective as of Friday, a year after the country notified its intention to leave the criminal court.

"Even if President Pierre Nkurunziza's government will not cooperate with the Court, the ICC has ways and means to investigate and persecute the crimes committed".

Nkurunziza, who has been in office since 2005, won re-election in July 2015 in a ballot that critics said violated the constitution and the terms of an agreement that ended a previous rebellion.

South Africa's withdrawal was revoked in March 2017, while Gambia's new government reversed its withdrawal in February this year. The commission asked the ICC to open an investigation as soon as possible.

Burundi's cabinet backed a constitutional change that would allow its president to stay in office until 2034, widening a political rift that has driven the country progressively deeper into crisis.

"Burundi's official withdrawal from the International Criminal Court is the latest expample of the government's deplorable efforts to shield those responsible for grave human rights violations from any kind of accountability", said Param-Preet Singh, Human Rights Watch's associated director of international justice in a statement.

Activists have mourned what was seen as a major blow to worldwide justice, with Lambert Nigarura, president of the Burundi Coalition for the ICC, saying that Bujumbura's decision to withdraw came "at a time when the machine continues to kill with impunity in Burundi".

Right groups including Amnesty International have condemned Burundi's withdrawal from the ICC.

Many African nations have long accused the court of being biased against Africa, with the overwhelming majority of its investigations targeting the continent. There are now 123 member states. Though Russia had signed the Rome Statute to join the ICC, the country never ratified the treaty.

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