27 January 2017

Africa: Nigeria Opposes Mass ICC Withdrawal

Photo: Premium Times
International Criminal Court.

The plan the African Union (AU) members to collectively withdraw from the International Criminal Court (ICC) may suffer a setback as Nigeria and some other countries are opposed to it.

Foreign minister Geoffrey Onyeama said in a statement in Abuja on Friday that Nigeria did not subscribe to the AU strategy.

The minister said that when the issue came up during a meeting, several countries opposed it.

He said Nigeria and others believed that the court had an important role to play in holding leaders accountable.

The only voice

"Nigeria is not the only voice agitating against it, in fact Senegal is very strongly speaking against it, Cape Verde and other countries are also against it.

"What they (AU) did was to set up a committee to elaborate a strategy for collective withdrawal.

"And after, Senegal took the floor, Nigeria took the floor, Cape Verde and some other countries made it clear that they were not going to subscribe to that decision," he said.

Mr Onyeama said a number of countries also said that they needed time to study the proposal.

He said that Zambia, Tanzania, Liberia, Botswana and a host of others were not willing to withdraw from the court.

Mr Onyeama stressed that each country willingly acceded to the 1998 Rome Statue on the setting up of the court.

"Each country freely and willingly acceded to the Treaty, and not all of the members of the AU acceded, each country acceded individually exercising its own sovereign right.

"So, each country, if they want to withdraw, has the right to do that individually.

Publicly declared

Three African states in 2016 publicly declared their intention to withdraw from the court.

Burundi, South Africa and The Gambia applied to withdraw, with reports that Namibia, Kenya and Uganda were also contemplating quitting the ICC.

The court has repeatedly been criticised by African states as an inefficient, neo-colonial institution of the Western powers to try African leaders.

The argument was supported by the fact that nine of the 10 situations under investigation, with three others under preliminary investigations, involved African countries.

However, as noted by the European Centre for Development Policy Management (ECDPM), "the rift is often caused by a neat difference in priorities.

"Where one gives more importance to peace processes, while the other gives more weight to obtaining [international] justice."

African state parties to the Rome Statute make up the biggest regional membership, comprising 34 of the 124 members.

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