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Botswana reiterates support for the ICC while saying it “regrets” South Africa’s decision to leave the Court

You can strike Botswana off the list of countries likely to join South Africa and Burundi in quitting the international Criminal Court (ICC). Botswana today issued a statement reiterating its support for the ICC saying the Court fights for the victims of the most severe crimes. The statement stresses that Botswana sees the ICC as a force for good in the world.

After a week of terrible headlines from Africa, the ICC must be thankful that at least one African country is willing to speak up in support of the Court. That country is Botswana and it is making no secret of its support for a court that many in Africa delight in attacking. 

Responding to last week’s shock news of South Africa’s withdrawal from the ICC, Botswana on Tuesday issued a statement expressing its continued for the court. In the one-page statement, Botswana also made the case for why it thinks that countries like South Africa, that are unhappy with the ICC, should try to fix it from the inside rather than simply running for the exit door. 

“Botswana remains convinced that the Assembly of States Parties (ASP) to the Rome Statute is the most appropriate platform for States Parties to address any concerns they may have regarding the implementation of the Statute,” the statement reads. 

“It had been our sincere hope and expectation that the Government of South Africa would use the opportunity presented by the upcoming meeting of the ASP on 16-24 November 2016 at The Hague to ventilate its concerns in this regard,” the statement explains. 

Regret

Botswana emphasized that it “respects” its neighbour’s decision to leave the ICC but says it “regrets” that the powers that be in South Africa came to a drastic decision: 

“While Botswana fully respects the sovereign right of any country to become a party to, or to withdraw from any international instrument, the Government of Botswana nonetheless regrets that the Government of South Africa reached this decision. 

The diamond-rich nation on its part said it will not be following South Africa’s lead anytime soon, reiterating its support for what the ICC aims to accomplish in the world:

“Botswana is convinced that as the only permanent international criminal tribunal, the ICC is an important and unique institution in the international criminal justice system. Botswana therefore wishes to reaffirm its membership of the Rome Statute and reiterate its support for a strong international criminal justice system through the ICC,” reads the statement. 

Full-throated support

Burundi has on several occasions broken ranks with other African Union (AU) members states on the subject of the ICC. Indeed, it is no exaggeration to say Burundi is the ICC’s best friend on the continent.

The statement released on Tuesday certainly leaves no doubt that Botswana’s opinion of the ICC is dramatically different from that of many of its fellow AU members who see the court as racist and meddlesome. 

“The Government of Botswana does not, therefore, associate itself with calls for States Parties to withdraw from the Rome Statute. Botswana believes that such a move betrays the rights of the victims of atrocious crimes to justice and also undermines the progress made to date in the global efforts to fight impunity,”reads the statement. 

Botswana concluded by calling on all ICC member countries to do their best to support the Court. 

“We therefore urge all States Parties to remain committed to and also respect their obligations under the Rome Statute by cooperating with, and providing political support to the ICC in order to ensure that the maintenance of minimum international standards of justice are observed.”

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