On Tuesday, Gambian Information Minister Sheriff Bojang announced his country’s decision to pull out of the International Criminal Court (ICC) less than a week after South Africa announced its formal withdrawal from the UN-backed court, leaving many in the international community stunned.
The Guardian reports that Bojang accused the Hague-based court of humiliating, persecuting, and unfairly targeting Africans, echoing similar sentiments expressed by South Africa and Burundi as they announced their decision to withdraw from the international court earlier this month.
Speaking on Gambian state television, Bojang cynically described the ICC as “an international Caucasian court for the persecution and humiliation of people of color, especially Africans.”
Bojang says it is unfair that the ICC continually goes after past and present African leaders while overlooking the shortcomings of leaders from the West, “There are many western countries, at least 30, that have committed heinous war crimes against independent sovereign states and their citizens since the creation of the ICC and not a single western war criminal has been indicted.”
Bojang specifically mentioned former U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron for his alleged war crimes and other atrocities committed during the 2003 invasion of Iraq and considers it the height of hypocrisy that the ICC is yet to bring charges against him.
Ironically, the ICC’s chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, is a former Gambian justice minister.
Established in 2002 by a multilateral treaty known as the Rome Statute, the ICC has the jurisdiction to prosecute individuals for international crimes of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.
Currently some 124 nation states are signatories to the Rome Statue and therefore members of the ICC. In the ICC’s 14-year history, more than 90 percent of the people it has indicted have come from Africa, including former presidents Laurent Gbagbo of Cote d’ Ivoire, Charles Taylor of Liberia who was sentenced to 50 years in jail, and President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan who is still in office.
While South Africa’s decision to quit the ICC may have come as a surprise, political insiders say Gambia’s decision to follow in tow is hardly surprising. Gambian President Yahya Jammeh has never hidden his disdain for Western-style democracy or modern international treaties that promote basic human rights.
A Troubling Legacy
Jammeh, a 51-year-old megalomaniac with a fondness for the theatrical, assumed power through a military coup in 1994. By 1996 he transformed himself into a civilian president who has won every presidential election held with a ludicrous landslide.
Under President Jammeh, Gambia has had an appalling human rights record, with both he and his goons running the tiny West African country like a private chiefdom.
President Jammeh has crossed every possible line of modern decorum, and observers fear that the Gambia’s decision to quit the ICC is simply meant to grant Jammeh a carte blanche to do as he pleases without the fear of facing prosecution from an international court in the future.