AU member states speak out against ICC withdrawal

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Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari listens to addressof the opening session of the 48th Ecowas extraordinary meeting of heads of states and Government in Abuja, Nigeria.

JOHANNESBURG - Various African countries have spoken out against a draft African Union document that urges member states to collectively withdraw from the International Criminal Court.

The document sets out a strategy to follow if reform demands are not met. 

Last year South Africa, The Gambia and Burundi announced their intent to withdraw from the ICC.

However Nigeria and other African states say they believe the court has an important role to play in holding leaders accountable.

READ: Withdrawal from the ICC: A sad day for South Africa and Africa

A draft African Union document appeals for "fair and transparent" international justice that is free of "double standards" and advocates the "regionalisation" of international law,
a reference to suggestions for an African war crimes court.

Almost a third of the ICC’s 124 members are African.

However this is not the first time the AU is discussing the possible withdrawal from the ICC by member states.

"The indications are that there will be a decision that speaks to the possibility of withdrawal, but that withdrawal is an option of the state. So essentially encouraging states that wants to withdraw but not telling states that they must withdraw because at least for the AU what they’ve indicated is it would be inconsistent with international law, said Ottilia Maunganidze from the Institute for Security Studies.

READ: ICC asks South Africa, Burundi to reconsider withdrawal

The ICC has only ever charged Africans, including the presidents of Kenya and Sudan , however at present its investigating crimes in Eastern Europe, the Middle East and South America.

Despite South Africa saying African countries are unfairly being singled out when it announced it’s decision to quit the ICC, experts say this is not entirely correct.

"The ICC only deals with cases that has been referred to it. In exceptional circumstances the prosecutor initiate processes herself. The majority of cases before the ICC were referred by the states themselves. They were referred by African states. Mali, DRC, CAR, Uganda referred themselves. Two other situations were referred by the UN Security Council. That is not the ICC’s prerogative to do that, it only relates to non-states parties, so Sudan and Libya," said Maunganidze

The ICC’s Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda has called on members to back the tribunal and held out hope The Gambia, her home country, would rethink its decision to quit.

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