By Isla Lamont, International News Writer
The small African country accused the judicial body of being a racist enterprise. Gambian Information Minister, Sheriff Bojang, called the ICC “an International Caucasian Court for the persecution and humiliation of people of color, especially Africans.” Gambia is the third country in two weeks to leave the ICC, following Burundi and South Africa. Kenya, Namibia, and Uganda are expected to leave next. Before these three, no country has ever left the ICC.
The ICC denies the allegations, saying that it “undertakes many of its investigations at the request of the U.N. Security Council and countries in which alleged crimes have occurred,” reports the Washington Post.
The ICC was established in 2002 as an international judicial body which prosecutes individuals for international crimes, including genocide and war crimes. According to the Coalition for the International Criminal Court, “The ICC is intended to complement existing national judicial systems and it may therefore only exercise its jurisdiction when certain conditions are met, such as when national courts are unwilling or unable to prosecute criminals or when the United Nations Security Council refer investigations to the Court.”
The continent of Africa has a long history of human rights abuse. According to the Washington Post, nine in ten ongoing investigations by the ICC involve African countries.
Concerns about bias in the ICC have been brewing for years. In a Cape Town town hall meeting in 2013, former US President Jimmy Carter defended the institution by pointing out that many Africans brought to justice by the tribunal were “delivered by their own people,” according to Al Jazeera. During the panel former Finnish President, Martti Ahtisaari, also stated that it is “much more complicated to be a president in Africa,” because they lack institutional support.
Gambia alone has a record of multiple human rights incidents. President Yahya Jammeh gained power in 1994 from a coup, and has recently been accused of “cracking down” on political opponents. 19 opposition leaders working toward electoral reforms have been jailed and one beaten to death, allegedly by Gambian security services.
The ICC’s prosecutor, Fatou Bensounda, is from Gambia, where she once served as attorney general and minister of justice. The Washington Post reports, she stated in March “The African continent still suffers from too many wars and conflicts, all of which result in too many atrocities…accountability for those who commit these atrocities is yet to be fully and effectively implemented.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, November 8th print edition.
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