African Union approves mass withdrawal from ICC plan

African leaders on Tuesday adopted a strategy calling for a collective withdrawal from the International Criminal Court.

 

The non-binding decision came behind closed doors near the end of an African Union summit in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa.

A draft of the strategy, recommends that African countries strengthen their own judicial mechanisms and expand the jurisdiction of the African Court of Justice and Human Rights "in order to reduce the deference to the ICC." AP reported.

This is the latest expression of impatience by African leaders with the court, which some say lacks impartiality and focuses too narrowly on African leaders, ignoring worthy cases in the West while pursuing cases of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

South Africa, Burundi and Gambia last year all announced plans to leave the court, leading to concerns that other states would follow.

Kenya is also on record of announcing plans to leave the Hague based court.

Some African countries have been especially critical of the ICC for pursuing sitting heads of state claiming by ICC doing so it interferes with their mandate to serve their countries.

The ICC caused an uproar across the African continent after it indicted Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta on charges of crimes against humanity for 2007 post-election violence in which more than 1,000 died. The case collapsed because of what the ICC prosecutor called lack of cooperation by Kenya's government.

In 2015, South Africa said it was considering leaving the ICC following widespread criticism for its refusal to arrest Sudan president Omar al-Bashir who is wanted for war crimes by ICC.

Under the Rome Statute, South Africa as an ICC member has an obligation to arrest anyone sought by the tribunal.

South Africa faced a loyalty conflict in which it had to choose between its commitment to the AU and its commitment to the ICC.

Jacob Zuma led government cited "contradictions" in the statute that clashed with treaty obligations to the African Union and  as a result choose Africa instead of ICC.

There are currently 34 African countries that are signatories of the Rome Statute, the treaty which set up the court in 2002.

However, not all African countries are in favour of a mass withdrawal. Last November,Nigeria restated its commitment to ICC stating that it represented the hope and aspirations of millions of people.

Botswana has also made similar remarks over the years urging African countries not to leave the international court.

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