article comment count is: 0

Russia to quit the International Criminal Court: Could a mass African exodus follow?

It never rains but it pours for the beleaguered International Criminal Court (ICC), with Russia confirming that it will withdraw from the ICC following a directive signed by President Vladimir Putin. Reeling from recent withdrawals by three African counties, the ICC has found itself in a sticky position, as it fights to justify its relevance and impartiality, amidst threats by more countries to quit the Court for its perceived bias. Could the ICC recover from these major setbacks?

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”.

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

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”.

Read: The Gambia announces intention to quit International Criminal Court

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.

Tell us what you think

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website.

By continuing to use our website, you agree to our use of cookies. If you'd like to learn more about the cookies we use, please read our Cookie policy.