The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Fatou Bensouda has said the ICC will continue with its preliminary investigations in Burundi, which was launched in April, as it had the backing of more than 120 other member states.
This is indicative of the fact that plans by some African countries to withdraw from the Rome Statute will in no way affect the ongoing investigations into alleged war crimes.
Fatou Bensouda has vowed to keep going after perpetrators of atrocities.
Violence erupted in Burundi in April last year when President Pierre Nkurunziza announced he would be seeking a third term in office. The ensuing violence has forced over three hundred thousand Burundians to seek shelter in neighbouring countries.
Burundi, South Africa and the Gambia have served notices to the United Nations of their intent to withdraw from the International Criminal Court. Their withdrawal however does not take effect until after a year.
The three countries like many other African countries have accused the ICC of bias against Africa asserting that all but one of the court’s 10 investigations have been in Africa. 5 suspects convicted by the court are from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic and Mali.
The ICC has rejected the allegations of bias arguing that many of the cases were brought by African governments themselves.
Bensouda has dismissed assertions that all of the ICC’s cases are from Africa indicating that the court has 10 preliminary investigations into alleged atrocities in Afghanistan, Colombia, Georgia, Iraq, the Palestinian territories and Ukraine.
Amid concerns of mass departure of member states especially from Africa, Bensouda said all other member states had renewed their commitment to the court which has a mandate to prosecute war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.
Russia and the Philippines are also considering withdrawing their membership.
Established in July 2002, the ICC is a court of last resort, intervening in member countries when their national jurisdictions are unable or unwilling to prosecute mass atrocities.
Africa news/Zainab Sa’id