- Title: Gambia and Burundi follow South Africa in an attempt to exit the ICC
- Date: 27th October 2016
- Summary: JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA (FILE - JUNE 14, 2015) (REUTERS) ****WARNING CONTAINS FLASH PHOTOGRAPHY*** VARIOUS OF SUDANESE PRESIDENT, OMAR AL-BASHIR AT AFRICAN UNION SUMMIT AFRICAN HEADS OF STATE POSING FOR FAMILY PHOTO AFRICAN HEADS WAVING
- Embargoed: 11th November 2016 16:44
- Keywords: africa ICC withdrawal
- Location: JOHANNESBURG AND BLOEMFONTEIN, SOUTH AFRICA, BUJUMBURA, BURUNDI AND BANJUL, GAMBIA
- City: JOHANNESBURG AND BLOEMFONTEIN, SOUTH AFRICA, BUJUMBURA, BURUNDI AND BANJUL, GAMBIA
- Country: South Africa
- Topics: Lawmaking,Government/Politics
- Reuters ID: LVA00155S8PQF
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: EDITORS PLEASE NOTE: THIS EDIT CONTAINS GRAPHIC MATERIAL
Momentum is building in Africa for a mass withdrawal from the International Criminal Court (ICC) after South Africa's shock decision to bury the last vestiges of Nelson Mandela's 'moral' foreign policy and quit the Hague-based institution.
ICC-bashing has been a popular pastime for many African leaders, who accuse it of unfairly targeting the continent, but Pretoria's filing of formal exit papers from the ICC's Rome Statute last week moves the game from rhetoric to reality.
An international lawyer at the Southern Africa Litigation Centre in Johannesburg, Angela Mudukuti explained that the withdrawal from the ICC will result in a massive justice gap because the court is the only framework where crimes against humanity can be dealt with. She then added that regionally, there is no African court with criminal jurisdiction that deals with genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.
"I think South Africa's reputation has suffered significantly, I also think South Africa may have perhaps triggered an avalanche of withdrawals, as we see there's talks of withdrawals in Gambia in Burundi. And I think given that Gambia and Burundi have unfortunately a very dark human rights record and so it's almost no surprise that the initiation for a withdrawal has come that side but for South Africa, it is very surprising. And if nations like this seek to pull out of the Rome Statute, what more for other countries where human rights have no place," Mudukuti said.
Burundi said this week it had sent a letter to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon initiating its departure from the ICC.
Court investigators opened a preliminary probe in April allegations of into killings, torture, rape and disappearances during a political crisis sparked last year by pursuit of a controversial third term.
Gambia, whose leader, Yahya Jammeh, seized power in a 1994 coup, followed suit this week, saying it was pulling out of what it dubbed the 'Infamous Caucasian Court for the persecution of Africans'.
"This action is warranted by the fact that the ICC despite being called the International Criminal Court, is in fact an 'International Caucasian Court' for the prosecution and humiliation of people of colour, especially Africans," the Gambia's Information and Communication Infrastructure Minister, Sheriff Baba Bojang said.
It is yet unclear whether Burundi and Gambia have sent the United Nations Secretary General a letter confirming their desire to depart, which triggers the formal year-long exit process.
However, even if they do not follow through, they are likely to embolden other states such as Kenya, Uganda, Djibouti and Namibia that might be wavering over membership of the ICC, which - crucially - denies immunity to sitting heads of state.
"By ratifying the Rome agreement introducing the International Penal Court it was believed that this court would be impartial, but we found that, for the moment, there are crimes committed in the world, especially in European countries and others and only Africans are pursued. On one hand we find that this court is being biased because it only condemns the countries of one continent while there are other crimes committed elsewhere that are not being punished or prosecuted," Burundian member of parliament, Gabriel Ntisezerana explained.
A Burundian resident, Joseph Nagijimana added:
"Burundi is an independent nation. They are the ones to say the first and the last word on whether to pull out or not, so it is no problem if we decide to leave or not, the only thing we have to think about is how our justice system can function."
Furthermore, there are several African voices rowing in the other direction, arguing that loyalty to the ICC's principles of punishment for the most heinous crimes was paramount and states should stay in the court to push for reform from inside.
African states were the first to join the court's statute and have played a critical role in gathering evidence that led to trials since it opened in 2002.
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