So soon after the departure of Burundi and then South Africa last week, Gambia is now the third nation to leave the International Criminal Court (ICC). Burundi announced that it would leave the institution last Wednesday. South Africa notified the court on Friday of its decision to follow. Now, Gambia and its president Yahya Jammeh have decided to join them in condemning the court as a “neo-colonial institution” and turning in its membership, according to Reuters.
The exodus began with Burundi, which came under investigation by the International Criminal Court for violence during its ongoing political crisis. What seemed like a transparent attempt to avoid inquiry was broadened when South Africa, under Mandela, one of the chief supporters of the ICC, announced that it was also leaving. South Africa’s quarrels with the ICC began when the institution ordered South Africa to apprehend Omar Hassan al-Bashir, who was wanted on charges of war crimes and genocide. Both countries dated their notice October 19, according to the Daily Mail.
Now, Gambia has decided to leave as well. The country has been under scrutiny for human rights violations related to political opposition. The New York Times reports that opposition leader Ousainou Darboe and 18 others were sentenced to prison for “unauthorized demonstration.” Another opposition leader, Solo Dandeng, was beaten to death by Gambian security forces after being arrested for leading a demonstration.
Yahya Jammeh’s cited the International Criminal Court’s apparent focus on Africa in his denunciation. On state television, Information Minister Sheriff Bojang announced on behalf of the government, “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.”
According to Al-Jazeera, the Jammeh government has attempted, without success, to bring the EU to the International Criminal Court over the deaths of thousands of African refugees and migrants attempting to reach its shores. The Washington Post notes that a disproportionate number of those migrants are Gambian.
Minister Bojang and the Gambian government’s denunciation is a repeat of Burundi’s and South Africa’s claims against the International Criminal Court. Minister Bojang continued by noting that there are “over 30” Western countries who “have committed heinous war crimes against independent states and their citizens since the creation of the ICC, and not a single Western war criminal has been indicted.” Singled out was Tony Blair, whom the ICC decided not to indict over the Iraq War. (The United States is not a signatory to the ICC.)
Gambia’s own Fatou Bensouda, the court’s chief prosecutor, notes that while nine out of ten cases currently being heard do involve Africa, six of the nine were brought by African governments, and that two were referred to the court by the UN Security Council. Only the Kenyan cases were begun by the court. Currently, it is expected that Kenya will soon follow Burundi, South Africa, and Gambia in leaving the court, a subject already being discussed in Kenya’s parliament.
What do you think of Gambia leaving the International Criminal Court? Does the ICC unfairly focus on Africa, or is it simply doing its job? Sound off in the comments and tell us what you think!
By James Mayfield