Watchlist: Burundi Under Investigation, Leaves International Criminal Court

Week of October 30th

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza address reporters before their bilateral meeting at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on August 4, 2014.


Burundi First to Leave International Criminal Court Amidst Nkurunziza Power Grab

A year after promising, along with South Africa and The Gambia, to withdraw from the United Nation’s International Criminal Court, Burundi became the first nation to leave the international war crimes tribunal. The withdrawal came during an active investigation by the court into Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza for crimes against humanity, including execution and torture, in combat between anti- and pro-government troops. This conflict escalated following Nkurunziza’s 2015 decision to stand for an illegal 3rd term as president. While this unprecedented step is a symbolically powerful rejection of so-called Western interference, it is unlikely to stop the ICC’s investigation of Nkurunziza. Even non-member states can be investigated according to the court’s charter and Nkurunziza’s refusal to cooperate with the court may only motivate his investigator’s. Nor is Nkurunziza likely to do significant damage to the court through his decision; both The Gambia and South Africa have since revoked their commitment to withdrawing from the ICC. Expect Nkurunziza to double-down on his attempts to consolidate power and avoid punishment for his crimes while the court continues its investigations and, possibly, pushes the UN to take stronger action in Burundi. SEBASTIAN LEDER MACEK


Chinese Communist Party Congress Comes to a Close

Many residents of Beijing welcomed the end of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)’s week-long National Congress that caused “twice-in-a-decade subway queues,” according to the Shanghaiist. The National Congress is a monumental gathering of more than 2,000 of the CCP’s most elite members from all across the country. They meet to deliberate the direction and goals of the CCP and to elect its new leaders, who in hand will serve as government leaders in the one-party state. The event is held once every five years. Predictably, President Xi Jinping will serve another five-year term as President, but rejected established precedent, failing to appoint a clear successor. Furthermore, attendees voted unanimously to codify Xi Jinping’s official ideology into the CCP Constitution. The only other leader to have his name mentioned in the Constitution while sitting in office is China’s founding father Mao Zedong who ruled China with an authoritarian grasp and is credited with tens of millions of deaths due to his economic and social policies. Five new members were rotated into the Standing Committee of the Politburo, the seven-man committee that dominates political control in China. The new members are largely allies of Xi, but a couple of notably liberal economic reformers were included as well. More developments will follow at the annual meeting of China’s parliament in March 2018. WILL FEUER


Former Argentine President in Court: Did She Help Cover up a 1994 Attack?

Former Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner appeared in court this past week as part of an ongoing investigation into a coverup of the bombing of the headquarters of the AMIA (Argentine Israelite Mutual Association in English) in 1994 which killed 85 people. The move by Kirchner concerns whether her 2012 move to allow top Iranian officials thought to be responsible for the attack to be tried in Iran and not Argentina was treasonous. Kirchner, president from 2007 to 2015, is still a politically active figure, as she was elected senator in the Argentine midterm elections this past week Kirchner maintains the case is a political move taken up by her successor Mauricio Macri. However, cases concerning the AMIA bombing and supposed cover-up have reigned in the Argentine judiciary system for the last decade. Since judge Alberto Nisman who ruled Kirchner would stand trial for her role in the suspected cover-up was found dead in 2015, the case has picked up steam. It remains to be seen what will be done to Kirchner and her aides who are accused of working with Iran to set up a deal of immunity since they wanted to do business with the country. ANDREW MITCHEL


Spain Stamps out Catalan Secession

On Friday, Catalan Parliament voted to secede from Spain, following the “Yes” vote in the October 1st independence referendum. Immediately following, the Spanish government enacted Article 155 of their constitution, exercising Madrid’s power to take over the regional government. Spanish officials sacked Carles Puigdemont, the Catalan president, and instated Soraya Saenz de Santamaria, Spain’s Deputy Prime Minister, as the temporary regional leader. Spain will hold snap elections on December 21st to elect a new leader of Catalonia. According to Spain’s Foreign Minister, Puigdemont could run again; however, he currently faces the threat of imprisonment for making “false promises” about Catalonia’s ability to thrive as an independent country. Pro-Spanish rallies have taken place in Barcelona, and the Spanish government feels cautiously optimistic that Catalan secession is off the table for now. ANNA HAYNES

Middle East

Iraqi Kurdish President Massoud Barzani to Step Down

Just weeks after orchestrating a national Kurdish independence referendum that backfired, Kurdish President Massoud Barzani publicly announced on Sunday that he would not seek to extend his presidential term, which ends in three days. While the referendum passed with flying colors, and was widely supported throughout the region, the Iraqi government responded by sending troops in to seize Kurdish-held oil-rich fields. "Three million votes for Kurdistan independence created history and cannot be erased," Barzani said on Kurdish TV after he announced he would step down. As Parliament discussed his decision to step down, pro-Barzani supporters forced their way into the building. Witnesses saw protesters with clubs and gunshots were heard, reports BBC. WILL FEUER

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