The African Union (AU) leaders are backing a proposal for mass withdrawal of member states from the International Criminal Court (ICC). However, not all countries support the resolution and countries such as Senegal and Nigeria oppose the proposal

The plan has been formally adopted by most member states despite the opposition from Nigeria and Senegal.  The plan is a non-binding plan and allows the individual countries to make their own decision based on the withdrawal resolution from the ICC.

The proposed withdrawal has been criticized by many, seen as ploy by some African leaders to cling on power and rule with impunity.

Burundi have already decided to quit, accusing the court of undermining its sovereignty and unfairly targeting Africans.  South Africa government has been at loggerheads with the ICC over the country’s failure to arrest Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir who is wanted by the court on charges of rights abuses in Darfur.

On 4 March 2009 Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir became the first sitting president to be indicted by ICC for directing a campaign of mass killing, rape and pillage against civilians in Darfur. But in October 2013 the AU called the ICC racist for failing to file charges against Western leaders or Western allies while prosecuting only African suspects, and demanded the ICC exempt leaders from prosecution. Photo: Public domain
On 4 March 2009 Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir became the first sitting president to be indicted by ICC for directing a campaign of mass killing, rape and pillage against civilians in Darfur. But in October 2013 the AU called the ICC racist for failing to file charges against Western leaders or Western allies while prosecuting only African suspects, and demanded the ICC exempt leaders from prosecution. Photo: Public domain

The ICC has clarified its objectives in pursuing justice for the victims of crimes in Africa disputing the allegations. Indeed, in the past year alone, pro-democracy demonstrators and activists on the continent have faced harsh treatment at the hands of state security authorities: from Ethiopia, home of the AU, the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan and Burundi.

Read: “I stand by the ICC”, Kofi Annan says

The resolution for mass withdrawal was tabled on 31 January, 2017 and it was supported by many countries after the election of the new AUC chairperson following the debate at in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Who is afraid of the ICC? (Photo: AMISOM Public Information via https://www.flickr.com/photos/au_unistphotostream/)
Who is afraid of the ICC? (Photo: AMISOM Public Information via https://www.flickr.com/photos/au_unistphotostream/)

Part of the resolution stated that the AU will hold talks with the United Nations Security Council to push for the reformation of the ICC.

Choices have consequences

Many rights groups such as Amnesty International have been vocal in calling for the continent to remain as part of the court, and rather push for reforms from within. Other international organizations and western countries have argued that many African countries still have weak judicial systems, and most of the governments have not prioritized human rights issues.

The probability of many donor countries and international organizations freezing their support to African countries could also be higher if the proposal for mass withdrawal succeeds.

While there are many Africans who feel that the ICC does indeed targets African countries, there are numerous voices across the continent who argue that the court can be reformed. There is still a strong belief amongst African citizens that the Court is relevant, and it is an essential institution that should be supported against the backdrop of impunity, and weak domestic judicial mechanisms. Botswana has previously reiterated its support for the ICC saying the Court fights for the victims of the most severe crimes.