Africa could soon be pulling out of the International Criminal Court (ICC), after leaders attending the just-concluded African Union Summit in Ethiopia developed a strategy for a collective withdrawal from the Hague-based court.
This non-binding decision, which was reportedly adopted at the end of the summit, is African leaders’ latest expression to withdraw from the ICC due to the court’s alleged bias against Africa, reports the Guardian.
The head of Oxfam International’s liaison office to the AU Summit, Desire Assogbavi, confirmed the adoption of the withdrawal strategy, adding that the leaders attending the summit had been divided on whether to withdraw from the court individually or collectively.
The leaders are also demanding the amendment of the definitions for immunity and impunity in the Rome Statute, which established the ICC in 2002.
The strategy recommends that African countries strengthen their own judicial mechanisms and expand the jurisdiction of the African court of justice and human rights in order to minimize the reference to the ICC.
Genuine Concern or Hypocrisy?
Over the last three years, some African leaders have criticized the ICC for what they see as discrimination against Africans.
They argue that since its establishment in 2002, the court has only managed to prosecute and jail Africans while turning a blind eye to the atrocities being committed by Western leaders in countries, such as the Middle East and Libya.
So far, the ICC has indicted more than 30 Africans on various counts of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and contempt of court.
Among those indicted are former and serving heads of state, ministers, military commanders, and other senior government officials.
The calls for African countries to withdraw from the ICC have grown louder over the last two years, after the pre-trial chamber indicted the current Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto for crimes committed during the 2008 post-election violence.
However, the two were acquitted after the prosecution failed to present enough evidence to support the charges.
Last year, Burundi, Gambia, and South Africa announced their plans to withdraw from the court.
African human rights defenders and the civil society have, however, voiced their concerns about the looming mass withdrawal of African countries from the ICC, saying the reasons and principles that led Africa to be part of the court are still valid.
Experts also argue that Africa still doesn’t have the needed legal capacity to try serious cases of war crimes.