What African Leaders Say About The International Criminal Court

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Written by Dana Sanchez

Is the International Criminal Court biased against Africa?

Africa feels targeted by the ICC, rightly or wrongly,” said Ghanaian President John Dramani Mahama, in a DW interview. “It’s like only African leaders have been arraigned before the ICC.”

That’s right, said Gambian ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda. “All of our cases right now are in Africa,” but that’s not the whole picture, she said.

Louise Mushikiwabo, foreign minister of Rwanda, said it’s clear that the ICC is “a court created for Africans and it is used mostly by Europe to manipulate African politics.”

At the recently concluded African Union Summit, members resolved to consider a mass withdrawal of their countries from the International Criminal Court, according to a report in VenturesAfrica.

President Jacob Zuma announced that South Africa was “reviewing its participation in the Rome statute and would announce its decision in due course.” Zuma caused an uproar after sheltering of ICC refugee, Omar Al Bashir, in 2015.

Bashir traveled to South Africa for an African Union summit and flew back to Sudan from a military airport outside Pretoria, as a local court was hearing an application that would force the government to arrest him, TheGuardian reported.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said constant hounding of his government by the ICC has him “distracted from the duty to serve,” VenturesAfrica reported.

President Jacob Zuma told the African Union Summit in Addis Ababa that his government believes it’s impossible for South Africa to continue its membership of the ICC, according to EyewitnessNews.

African Union Commission chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma told reporters after the summit that AU member states could consider withdrawal if the ICC behaves in a way where countries have to choose between the AU and the tribunal.

Withdrawing from the ICC would be an abuse of justice and a sign that the Kenyan government only cares about the accused, not the victims, said George Mocheche, a professor of international relations at the University of Nairobi, Hivisasa reported.

Victims’ only hope for justice is to be heard in court, he said, and urged the Kenyan government to support the court for the sake of embracing an international justice system.

Mocheche said the African court system is biased. Withdrawal from the ICC will be subject to a referendum, he said, and he urged Kenyans to reject the bid to withdraw.

“It’s wrong for African leaders to insinuate that ICC only targets them,” he said. “I don’t think a court can follow you if you’re doing a right thing. We have even seen the Kenyan judiciary system and the challenges it’s facing for being biased. We have to reject the bid to withdraw because the court offers a lifeline to victims.”

How big of a blow is it to the ICC to lose the support of a few African leaders?

“I don’t think the voices of a few leaders or a few people from Africa should be used to disregard the support that we still have in Africa,” Bensouda told DW.