‘The world is going backward. The chaos is coming’
The perception that the ICC is only used to punish African leaders has gained traction across the continent. Namibia and Kenya have raised the possibility of pulling out, while Uganda said it was sure to be a “hot topic” for the African Union’s next meeting in January.
All six ICC cases that are ongoing or about to begin involve people from African states. That said, all but one of those cases were brought by African nations themselves or the UN Security Council, and preliminary ICC investigations have opened elsewhere.
Gambia’s decision to withdraw is a particular blow to the court, as its chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, is herself a former Gambian justice minister.
Its information minister, Sheriff Baba Bojang, said in the statement late on Tuesday that the court was involved in “the persecution of Africans, and especially their leaders”.
He said “at least 30” Western countries had committed war crimes with impunity since the creation of the ICC in 2002, singling out the actions of UK prime minister Tony Blair in the Iraq War as an example.Withdrawal was “warranted by the fact that the ICC, despite being called International Criminal Court, is in fact an International Caucasian Court for the persecution and humiliation of people of colour, especially Africans”, he said.
South Africa, once one of the ICC’s staunchest supporters, announced its decision to withdraw after a row over the government’s decision to grant free passage to Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who is wanted for arrest by the court.
Gambian President Yahya Jammeh, one of Africa’s longest-serving leaders, is accused by rights groups of various abuses including a clampdown on political opponents.
Burundi has been dogged by recent reports of state-sponsored violence along ethnic lines. Its president approved legislation on leaving the ICC last week. Former ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo said that by undermining the court, countries were giving the continent’s leaders free rein “to commit genocide”. He told the AFP news agency Burundi’s president in particular “wants free hands to attack civilians”.