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Burundi/East African Court of Justice: Case Brought on President’s Legitimacy

(June 16, 2016) On June 13, 2016, it was announced that the East African Court of Justice (EACJ), which is located in Arusha, Tanzania, will hear a case on the legitimacy of the President of Burundi’s third run for office. (Burundi: East African Court of Justice to Hear Case Against Burundi President’s Legitimacy, BBC WORLD SERVICe (June 13, 2016), available at Open Source Enterprise online subscription database, No. AFR2016061335427135.) The EACJ “is one of the organs of the East African Community [EAC] established under Article 9 of the Treaty for the Establishment of the East African Community. The Court’s major responsibility is to ensure the adherence to law in the interpretation and application of and compliance with the EAC Treaty.” (Welcome to the East African Court of Justice, EACJ website (last visited June 13, 2016).) Burundi acceded to the treaty on June 18, 2007, and became a full member on July 1 of that year. (Treaty Establishing the East African Community (signed Nov. 30, 1999, in force from July 7, 2000, as last amended Aug. 20, 2007), EAC website.)

According to a news report, the defendants in the case include the Attorney General of Burundi, who is accused of not stopping the Burundian Constitutional Court in taking a 2015 decision that allowed President Pierre Nurunziza to run for a third term; the Electoral Commission, also for permitting the third run for office; and the Secretary-General of the EAC, for allowing Burundi to flaunt the Community’s provisions on rule of law. (Burundi: East African Court of Justice to Hear Case Against Burundi President’s Legitimacy, supra; Treaty Establishing the East African Community, art. 3, ¶ 3(1); for background on the decision allowing a third term, see Constance Johnson, Burundi: Court Permits Third Bid for Presidency, GLOBAL LEGAL MONITOR (May 7, 2015).)

A civil society group is lodging the suit, seeking to have the EACJ nullify the Burundi Constitutional Court decision that permitted the third bid for election by Nurunziza. The group argues that the decision was a violation of the Burundi peace treaty signed in 2000 and of Burundi’s Constitution. The Pan African Lawyers Union is providing legal representation to the group.  The Union is also seeking to have the East African Community consider taking steps against Burundi, including the possibility of expelling the country from the Community.  (Burundi: East African Court of Justice to Hear Case Against Burundi President’s Legitimacy, supra; Burundi’s Constitution of 2005 (as translated in 2012), CONSTITUTE PROJECT.)