DAKAR. — A third African country, Gambia, says it will leave the International Criminal Court as fears grow of a mass pullout from the body that pursues some of the world’s worst atrocities. Gambia accuses The Hague-based tribunal of “persecution and humiliation of people of colour, especially Africans”.Gambia announced the decision on television on Tuesday night, accusing the court of unfairly targeting Africa and calling it the “International Caucasian Court”. Information minister Sheriff Baba Bojang said on state television that the court had been used “for the persecution of Africans and especially their leaders” while ignoring crimes committed by the West.
He accused “at least 30” Western countries of having committed war crimes against their citizens since the ICC was founded more than a decade ago and said none has been targeted by the court.
Bojang also singled out the case of Tony Blair, former British prime minister, who the ICC decided not to indict over the Iraq war.
“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,” the Gambian minister said.
The withdrawal, he said, “is 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”.
According to Al Jazeera, Gambia has been trying, without success, to use the ICC to punish the EU for the deaths of thousands of African refugees and migrants trying to reach its shores. Gambia’s move comes after South Africa, once a strong ICC supporter under former President Nelson Mandela, notified the United Nations Secretary-General it would leave the court.
Early last week, Burundi’s president signed legislation to leave the court as well. Only Africans have been charged in the six ICC cases that are ongoing or about to begin, though preliminary ICC investigations have opened elsewhere.
The decision is also striking because the ICC’s chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, is Gambia’s former minister of justice. Minister Bojang said Gambia has begun the process of withdrawing from the ICC, which involves notifying the UN Secretary-General and takes effect a year after the notification is received.
Rights groups often accuse Gambian President Yahya Jammeh, one of Africa’s longest-serving leaders, of abuses including a clampdown on political opponents. The next presidential election is in December. Officials with other top African critics of the court, including Uganda and Kenya, have said in recent days they have not yet decided whether to leave the ICC as well.
Uganda said it will be a “hot topic” at an African Union meeting in January. Former ICC chief prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo has criticised Burundi and South Africa, accusing them of giving leaders on the continent a free hand “to commit genocide”. — Agencies.
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