Gambia with­draws from ICC Botswana reaf­firms sup­port, ‘re­grets’ SA de­ci­sion

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Worldwide -

GAMBIA has an­nounced its with­drawal from the In­ter­na­tional Crim­i­nal Court, ac­cus­ing the Hague-based tri­bunal of “per­se­cu­tion and hu­mil­i­a­tion of peo­ple of colour, es­pe­cially Africans”.

Tues­day’s an­nounce­ment comes after sim­i­lar de­ci­sions ear­lier this month by South Africa and Bu­rundi to aban­don the in­sti­tu­tion, set up to try the world’s worst crimes.

The ICC was set up in 2002 and is of­ten ac­cused of bias against Africa and has also strug­gled with a lack of co­op­er­a­tion, in­clud­ing from the US, which has signed the court’s treaty but never rat­i­fied it.

The court had been used “for the per­se­cu­tion of Africans and es­pe­cially their lead­ers” while ig­nor­ing crimes com­mit­ted by the West, Sher­iff Bo­jang, Gambia’s in­for­ma­tion min­is­ter, said on state tele­vi­sion.

He 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,” Bo­jang 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”.

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. The de­ci­sion will also come as a per­sonal blow to the court’s chief pros­e­cu­tor, Fa­tou Ben­souda, a for­mer Gam­bian jus­tice min­is­ter.

Bu­rundi had said ear­lier this month it would leave the court, while Namibia and Kenya have also raised the pos­si­bil­ity.

Over the week­end, the ICC asked South Africa and Bu­rundi to re­con­sider their de­ci­sions, which came as a ma­jor blow to the in­sti­tu­tion.

“I urge them to work to­gether with other states in the fight against im­punity, which of­ten causes mas­sive vi­o­la­tions of GABORONE — The gov­ern­ment of Botswana has be­come the first African coun­try to “re­gret” the de­ci­sion taken by South Africa to leave the In­ter­na­tional Crim­i­nal Court (ICC).

Botswana’s min­istry of for­eign af­fairs con­firmed to News24 that it had in­deed re­leased a state­ment that cir­cu­lated on so­cial me­dia yes­ter­day in which it “re­gret­ted” South Africa’s de­ci­sion to with­draw from the Hague-based court.

“While Botswana fully re­spects the sov­er­eign right of any coun­try to be­come a party to, or to with­draw from any in­ter­na­tional in­stru­ment, the Gov­ern­ment of Botswana nonethe­less re­grets that the Gov­ern­ment of South Africa reached this de­ci­sion,” read part of the state­ment. See the whole state­ment be­low. South Africa dealt a heavy blow to the in­ter­na­tional court on Fri­day by an­nounc­ing it was with­draw­ing from the in­sti­tu­tion set up to pros­e­cute the world’s

hu­man rights,” Sidiki Kaba, pres­i­dent of the as­sem­bly of state par­ties to the ICC found­ing treaty, said in a state­ment.

South Africa’s de­ci­sion fol­lowed a dis­pute last year when Su­danese Pres­i­dent Omar al-Bashir vis­ited the coun­try de­spite being the sub­ject of an ICC ar­rest war­rant over al­leged war crimes.

Kaba said he was con­cerned that South Africa and Bu­rundi’s de­ci­sions would pave the way for other African states to leave the court.

The tri­bunal is en­trusted with “pros­e­cut­ing the most se­ri­ous crimes that shock the con­science of hu­man­ity, namely geno­cide, war crimes, crimes against hu­man­ity and crimes of ag­gres­sion”.

Luis Moreno Ocampo, the for­mer ICC chief pros­e­cu­tor, crit­i­cised Bu­rundi and South Africa, ac­cus­ing them of giv­ing worst crimes.

The de­ci­sion fol­lowed a dis­pute last year when Su­danese Pres­i­dent Omar al-Bashir vis­ited the coun­try for an African Union (AU) sum­mit de­spite fac­ing an ICC war­rant over al­leged war crimes.

South Africa was the se­cond coun­try last week, after Bu­rundi, to move to leave the ICC.

Gambia on Tues­day also joined the queue to leave the in­ter­na­tional court, ac­cus­ing it of “hu­mil­i­at­ing Africans”.

But Botswana reaf­firmed its sup­port for “a strong in­ter­na­tional crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem”.

“Botswana is con­vinced that as the only per­ma­nent in­ter­na­tional crim­i­nal tri­bunal, the ICC is an im­por­tant unique in­sti­tu­tion in the in­ter­na­tional crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem. Botswana there­fore wishes to reaf­firm its mem­ber­ship of the Rome statute and re­it­er­ate its sup­port for a strong in­ter­na­tional crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem through the ICC,” the state­ment said. — AFP

lead­ers on the con­ti­nent a free hand “to com­mit geno­cide”.

“Bu­rundi is leav­ing the ICC to keep com­mit­ting crimes against hu­man­ity and pos­si­ble geno­cide in its ter­ri­tory. Bu­rundi’s pres­i­dent wants free hands to at­tack civil­ians,” he said.

He said Nel­son Man­dela, the for­mer South African pres­i­dent, had “pro­moted the es­tab­lish­ment of the Court to avoid new mas­sive crimes in Africa. Now un­der the [Ja­cob] Zuma lead­er­ship, South Africa de­cided to cover up the crimes and aban­doned African vic­tims. The world is go­ing back­ward.

“The chaos is com­ing. Geno­cide in Bu­rundi and a new African war are in mo­tion.”

Gambia’s de­ci­sion is also strik­ing be­cause the ICC’s chief pros­e­cu­tor, Fa­tou Ben­souda, is Gam­bian. — AP

Stu­dents protest out­side the par­lia­ment in Cape Town on Wed­nes­day [Reuters

Fa­tou Ben­souda

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