African Union leaders back leaving ICC

Leaders of multiple African countries announced Feb. 1 that they have backed a "strategy of collective withdrawal" from the International Criminal Court (ICC). Prior to this week's African Union (AU) summit, the AU issued a document seen by Reuters that proposed a coordinated withdrawal unless the ICC is reformed. The AU claims that the ICC is improperly focusing on prosecuting individuals from African countries, and its exit could be significant, as almost a third of the ICC's member countries are African. The AU and the ICC have had a tumultuous relationship over the course of the past year. In July an AU advisory board accused the ICC of narrowly focusing its investigations on African government leaders since its inception in 2002. The AU's Economic Social and Cultural Council (ECOSOCC) recommended that members quit the ICC should Rome Statute signatories follow through with a proposed amendment allowing the prosecution and arrest of sitting heads of state. Human Rights Watch stated that giving sitting leaders immunity would defeat the purpose of the ICC's creation.

From Jurist, Feb. 1. Used with permission.

Note: South Africa, Burundi and Gambia have already withdrawn from the ICC over the question. (HRW) Especially at issue is the fate of Sudan's president Omar al-Bashir, who is wanted by the ICC for acts of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

  1. South Africa cancels withdrawal from ICC

    South Africa on March 7 informed the UN (PDF) that it is canceling its decision to withdraw from the International Criminal Court (ICC). South Africa's decision to cancel the withdrawal comes in response to the South African High Court finding the withdrawal unconstitutional. High Court Judge Phineas Mojapelo found that the "decision by the national executive to deliver the notice of withdrawal of South Africa from the Rome Statute of the ICC without prior parliamentary approval is unconstitutional and invalid." The South African government called the judgement "merely procedural" and said that the government would continue working on leaving the ICC. Those comments have created some doubt as to whether the cancellation of the withdrawal is just temporary or if South Africa intends to remain in the ICC. (Jurist)