Russia has become the latest country to confirm that it will withdraw from the International Criminal Court (ICC), following a directive signed by President Vladimir Putin.
Reeling under recent withdrawals by three African countries, the ICC has found itself in a sticky position, as it fights tooth and nail to justify its relevance and impartiality, amidst threats by more countries to quit the Court.
According to CNN, in a statement the Russian Foreign Ministry said the ICC has “failed to meet the expectations to become a truly independent, authoritative international tribunal”.
Russia reportedly described the ICC as “ineffective,” arguing that “during the 14 years of the court’s work it passed only four sentences having spent over a billion dollars”.
Russia’s argument that the ICC has essentially failed to “become truly independent” gives clout to accusations by three African countries, which recently announced their withdrawal from the Court. Last month (October) South Africa notified the United Nations (UN) of its intention to sever ties with the Hague-based court arguing that the ICC’s interpretation of its mandate is often “incompatible” with “peaceful resolution of conflicts”.
Barely days after South Africa announced its plan to quit the ICC, The Gambia also announced its intention to withdraw from the Court accusing the ICC of “persecution and humiliation of people of colour, especially Africans”. The Gambian Information Minister Sheriff Bojang also accused the ICC of prosecutorial bias, skewed against Africans while ignoring war crimes perpetrated by Western powers. In another case, Burundi’s parliament voted overwhelmingly in support of legislation to withdraw from the Rome Statute.
Although other African countries such as Botswana have reiterated their support of the Rome Statute, the Court faces a bleak future, which threatens its effectiveness, and ultimately its survival. Botswana recently threw its weight in support of the ICC, saying the “Rome Statute is the most appropriate platform for States Parties to address any concerns they may have regarding the implementation of the Statute”.
While African leaders have in the past criticised the ICC for its perceived skewed and racist prosecutorial strategy targeting Africans, most countries seem to have adopted a wait-and-see cautious approach.
However, there is a big chance that more Africa countries could follow in the footsteps of Russia, South Africa, The Gambia and Burundi unless the ICC swiftly moves to reform the institution, addressing the concerns raised by state parties such as perceived prosecutorial bias among others.