The West African nation of the Gambia became the latest country to pull out of the International Criminal Court, saying the tribunal existed to “persecute and humiliate” people from the continent.
Gambia’s withdrawal was the third country to pull out in two weeks, after Burundi and South Africa. Before that, no country had left the court that is based in The Hague in the Netherlands. The court tries people for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Gambian Information Minister Sheriff Bojang called the ICC "an International Caucasian Court for the persecution and humiliation of people of color, especially Africans" in televised comments late Tuesday. He criticized the court for failing to indict former British prime minister Tony Blair over the Iraq war.
Burundi was the first country to announce its intended departure on Oct. 7 after the court said it would investigate political violence there.
South Africa then announced it would leave, saying that handing a leader over to the court would interfere in another country’s affairs.
Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir visited South Africa last year while wanted by the international court for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur, western Sudan. He departed South Africa despite a court order banning him from leaving.
Only Africans have been charged in the six International court cases that are ongoing or scheduled to start soon, the Associated Press reported. Kenya and Namibia have said they are also considering leaving the court.
Since the International Criminal Court started issuing arrest warrants in 2005, it has indicted 39 people, all of them African, columnist Noah Feldman wrote in an editorial for the Mail and Guardian, a newspaper headquartered in Johannesburg.
“There are various explanations for this, some of them defensible. But the bottom line is that it was an inexcusable mistake for the court not to pursue other cases,” wrote Feldman, a Harvard University professor of international law.
“It wouldn’t have been tokenism, because there are, unfortunately, plenty of non-African war criminals. Yet even if it were, the tokenism would have been justified to show that the court is more than the imperialist agent of regime change that many Africans consider it,” he said.
The international court said in a statement: "The Court is aware of the statements, but it has not received any official communication regarding a possible withdrawal of Burundi or Gambia. At this stage, we cannot comment further on such reports."
Last month, the court sentenced Islamist militant Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi to nine years in prison for destroying centuries-old mausoleums and a mosque in the historic city in Mali of Timbuktu, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
In 2012, the International Criminal Court sentenced former Liberian president Charles Taylor to 50 years in prison for his role in war crimes committed during the civil war in neighboring Sierra Leone in the 1990s.