Gambia says it is withdrawing from the International Criminal Court in The Hague — the third nation to do so this month. The small West African country alleges that the court is biased against Africans.
On Oct. 12, Burundi, whose president is being investigated by the ICC, voted to withdraw from the tribunal. About a week later, South Africa announced it had submitted a written notice to the U.N. saying it intended to leave the ICC. South Africa previously failed to honor an ICC arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who was indicted in 2009 on charges that he committed war crimes and genocide in Darfur.
The ICC has never opened an investigation concerning Gambia.
NPR’s Ofeibea Quist-Arcton has reported on the country’s “lamentable human rights record.” Amnesty International accuses Gambia’s government of “prevalent and routine” torture of detainees in its justice system.
As The Two-Way has reported, every person tried by the ICC since the treaty creating it was adopted in 1998 has been African.
Other war crimes trials have been carried out by ad hoc tribunals created after a specific conflict, such as those created for Yugoslavia and Cambodia, or for the Nuremberg trials conducted after World War II.
Former Congolese Vice President Jean-Pierre Bemba — who was found guilty in March of war crimes and crimes against humanity for rapes and murders committed in the Central African Republic — was the most recent African leader convicted by the ICC. He was sentenced to 18 years in prison.
U.S. State Department spokesperson John Kirby said the department is “concerned about this decision” by African countries to withdraw support for the court. But, “I don’t want to get ahead of events, and I don’t think we’re at the point now where we can call it a trend,” Kirby told NPR. “We do think that the ICC has made valuable contributions in service of accountability in a number of situations, and we hope other governments would share that analysis.”
Audio: Gambi- leaving International Criminal Court