The government of Gambia has announced its withdrawal from the International Criminal Court, accusing the world body of ignoring the war crimes of Western nations and seeking only to prosecute Africans. The announcement on Tuesday, October 25th by the West African nation, whose president, Yahya Jammeh, has called on the court to investigate African migrant deaths on the Mediterranean, comes just days after South Africa said it was quitting The Hague-based tribunal.
“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 persecution and humiliation of people of colour, especially Africans,” Information Minister Sheriff Bojang said on state television.
He noted the case of the former British prime minister Tony Blair, whom 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 ICC has had to fight off allegations of pursuing a neo-colonial agenda in Africa, where all but one of its 10 investigations have been based. Burundi has already said it plans to leave and Kenya’s parliament is considering following suit.
The statement from Gambia, whose citizens make up a disproportionately high proportion of the African migrant flow to Europe, said it had sought to bring the European Union before the ICC over the deaths of migrants but received no response.
The ICC’s current chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, (pictured) is Gambian and was as an adviser to Jammeh in the early years of his rule after he seized power in a coup in 1994. She later served as justice minister.
The Court at the weekend asked South Africa and Burundi to reconsider their decisions to leave. In a statement, Sidiki Kaba, president of the assembly of state parties to the ICC founding treaty, said:
“I urge them to work together with other states in the fight against impunity, which often causes massive violations of human rights,”
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 tasked with prosecuting the most serious crimes that shock the conscience of humanity, namely genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and crimes of aggression,”
Kaba criticised Burundi and South Africa accusing them of giving 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 added that the former South African president Nelson Mandela had “promoted the establishment of the court to avoid new massive crimes in Africa. Now under the 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,” he concluded.