#GlobalJustice Weekly - Burundi set to leave ICC | Kenya: End rights violations

Burundian refugees in Nduta refugee camp. The UN estimates that there will be 534,000 Burundian refugees by the end of 2017. © UNHCR/Benjamin Loyseau 
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Victims lose out as Burundi prepares to leave ICC

On 27 October 2017, Burundi will become the first country to withdraw from the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), raising questions for the ICC’s existing preliminary examination of the situation in the country since April 2016.

The ICC Office of the Prosecutor’s (OTP) preliminary examination in Burundi has been determining whether to open a full investigation into allegations of grave international crimes allegedly committed in the country since April 2015., including killings, arbitrary detentions, enforced disappearances, torture, and sexual violence.

“In one week, the decision to withdraw Burundi from the Rome Statute will come into effect. This comes at a time when the machine continues to kill with impunity in Burundi. Today, Burundian justice, as it is so-called, has lost contact with life. It has become a mere tool of repression of any dissenting voice the powerful and the party in power CNDD FDD,” said the Burundi Coalition for the ICC in a statement today.

“Withdrawing from any international treaty is a derogation of a country’s commitment to the rule of law, and we are saddened that victims of grave crimes in Burundi will lose recourse to justice and redress through the ICC system,” said William R. Pace, convenor of the Coalition for the ICC. “However, we take hope from the fact that South Africa and Gambia have decided to stay with the ICC, and that many African states rejected calls for a mass withdrawal at the last African Union summit.”

In late April 2015,  President Nkurunziza announced—with approval from Burundi’s constitutional court—that he would seek reelection for a third term, a move at odds with the country’s two-term presidency limit agreed in the Arusha Accords. The announcement was met with daily protests spanning months, which turned violent—and deadly—as authorities allegedly responded with unlawful force and repression. Violence and other grave human rights abuses reportedly continued in the aftermath of the elections outcome.

The UN estimates that there will be 534,000 Burundian refugees by the end of 2017. A further 209,202 persons were internally displaced in Burundi as of May 2017,

During Burundi’s almost 13 years as a state party to the RS, the government has enacted legislation (in 2009) fully incorporating the RS definitions of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide into its penal code.

“The case of Burundi could set a potentially very dangerous precedent for the Rome Statute system of international justice […]. The Burundian case might suggest to other states that face (or will face) a preliminary consideration that it would be sufficient to withdraw immediately from the Rome Statute so that the initiation of an investigation could be effectively avoided. Indeed, as stated above, the Prosecutor may initiate an investigation before the withdrawal takes effect […]. But the Prosecutor would not need such permission from the Pre-Trial Chamber if other actors in the international community, such as other States parties to the Rome Statute or the UN Security Council, responsibility for the fight against impunity in recalcitrant countries,” said the Burundi Coalition for the ICC. 

Read the full story on the ICC and Burundi

 

Kenya: End police brutality and rights violations

United Nations experts have joined civil society in urging the government of Kenya to lift a new protest ban and end an alleged pattern of police brutality as presidential elections loom on 26 October. In calling for independent investigations to avoid a repeat of violence that has followed Kenya's now-recalled 8 August election, the experts also shared concerns about shrinking space for civil society lawfully questioning the conduct of authorities.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch said as many as 67 people across the nation were killed as a result of police brutality after incumbent Uhuru Kenyatta’s re-election was initially announced in August. On Monday, following the new protest ban, Kenyan police reportedly used excessive force against opposition supporters in Nairobi who had been calling for electoral reform.

“This deadly use of excessive force has become a hallmark of police operations in Kenya and must be decisively stopped before the next election takes place," said Michelle Kagari, deputy regional director for East Africa, the Horn, and the Great Lakes at Amnesty International.

“The Kenyan authorities should publicly acknowledge the violations, conduct speedy, impartial, thorough, and transparent investigations, and take the necessary steps under the law to hold those responsible to account as a key step toward justice for the victims,” said Otsieno Namwaya, Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The police attacked opposition supporters and then tried to cover up their attacks. The authorities should ensure that this kind of arbitrary and abusive use of force by police does not recur in the repeat election.”

Meanwhile, in responding to ongoing repression and denigration of human rights organizations in Kenya, the UN experts pointed to long-standing concerns about the state's response to civil society advocating for independent investigations into alleged violence as well as judicial reviews of elections processes.

"This is unacceptable and must immediately stop,” the experts said. “Over the years, we have repeatedly raised concerns with the Government of Kenya about shrinking civil society space and attacks on individual human rights defenders.

 

ICC investigations

CAR: The UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide has strongly condemned provocation of ethnic and religious hatred armed groups and impressed the need for urgent, concerted and coordinated steps to end violence.

Libya: UN relief agencies have upped their response in the Sabratha region following intensification of conflict that has already driven over 15,000 people from their homes and damaged or destroyed over 500 houses. Mitiga airport has been evacuated due to the fighting and was temporarily closed. 

Mali: ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda is expected in Mali on Tuesday for a 48-hour visit. Bensouda will meet with political and military authorities, as well as judicial officials and civil society organizations during her visit.

 

Preliminary examinations

Nigeria: A court has convicted 45 Boko Haram members and released 468 suspects. The 45 convicted members have been sentenced to between three and 31 years in prison, although rights groups have raised concerns about fair trials.

Palestine: The UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process has met with the Palestinian Prime Minister to discuss the implementation of the intra-Palestinian agreement signed in Cairo. The agreement provides for the return of the crossings of Gaza to the Palestinian Authority.

 

Campaign for Global Justice

A refugee rights group in Hungary has sued Prime Minister Viktor Orban's government for defamation over a questionnaire that alleged that the group advocates more lenient sentences for migrants breaking the law than for Hungarians. 

The jury in the Jungle Jabbah case has begun deliberations in the federal trial of the alleged Liberian warlord. Yesterday, government lawyers and the defense team for Mohammed Jabbateh delivered closing arguments to the jury.

 

Around the world

At least 500 people have been detained in overcrowded detention facilities in Cameroon following mass arbitrary arrests in the Anglophone regions during peaceful protests. Amnesty International has condemned the arrests as a violation.  

A truck bomb in Somalia exploded at a busy junction in central Mogadishu lined with government buildings, restaurants, hotels, and kiosks, killing at least 230 people and wounding hundreds more.