English   |    French

  Friday PM

Clouds of smoke and no fire in AU's ICC withdrawal strategy

Journalists for Justice / 01 February 2017

 By Elise Keppler,

The African Union made headlines Tuesday for purportedly agreeing to mass withdrawal from the International Criminal Court. The reality is more complex.

The decision by AU member states welcomes the announced withdrawals by South Africa, Burundi, and Gambia, adopts the “ICC withdrawal strategy,” and calls for member states to consider implementing its recommendations. This is based on text we have seen that, while labeled a draft, reflects the final text, sources close to the negotiations said.

But there was vocal opposition by ministers to withdrawal at last week’s AU summit. The Nigerian foreign minister said that the ICC has “an important role to play in holding leaders accountable,” and that “Nigeria is not the only voice agitating against [withdrawal], in fact Senegal is very strongly speaking against it, Cape Verde, and other countries are also against it.”

Nigeria, Senegal, and Cape Verde ultimately entered formal reservations to the decision adopted by heads of state. Liberia entered a reservation to the paragraph that adopts the strategy, and Malawi, Tanzania, Tunisia, and Zambia requested more time to study it.

Meanwhile, the “strategy” does not actually call for mass withdrawal, based on the text that Human Rights Watch reviewed. The document instead states: “Further research on the idea of collective withdrawal, a concept that has not yet been recognized by international law, is required.”

Instead the document revisits AU concerns with the court—including its relationship with the United Nations Security Council and a bid to amend the court’s statute to exempt sitting leaders implicated in widespread atrocities. The document offers information about how states may withdraw from the statute, and notes that lack of adoption of AU proposals to amend the statute could be conditions for withdrawal, but says only that a “timeline for reform should be clearly agreed upon.”

Outside of AU meetings, Nigeria, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Mali, Malawi, Zambia, Tanzania, Ghana, Democratic Republic of Congo, Lesotho, Sierra Leone, and Botswana have clearly spoken out in their capitals, New York, and The Hague to expressly reaffirm their commitment to the ICC. The new Gambian president, Adama Barrow, also expressed his intention for Gambia to retract its withdrawal.

This support—and opposition to withdrawal plans—should be strengthened. The ICC is the only court of last resort to deliver justice for victims of mass atrocities when national courts are unable or unwilling. As advocates for victims have said, its reach should be expanded, not curtailed.

 

Elise Keppler is Associate Director, International Justice Programme, Human Rights Watch

< >

Other Headlines


Clouds of smoke and no fire in AU's ICC withdrawal strategy

Ntaganda takes the stand in his own defence at the ICC

BY Susan Kendi / ON 23 June 2017

Clouds of smoke and no fire in AU's ICC withdrawal strategy

Burundi : Persistence of serious human rights violations in a climate of widespread fear

BY Susan Kendi / ON 20 June 2017

Clouds of smoke and no fire in AU's ICC withdrawal strategy

President Uhuru Kenyatta urged to act on the rise of uninvestigated extra-judicial killings

BY Susan Kendi / ON 20 June 2017

Clouds of smoke and no fire in AU's ICC withdrawal strategy

Acholi chief reveals his role in peace talks efforts between LRA and Museveni

BY Susan Kendi / ON 16 June 2017

Clouds of smoke and no fire in AU's ICC withdrawal strategy

Ntaganda case: ICC Appeals Chamber confirms the Court’s jurisdiction over two war crimes counts

BY Journalists for Justice / ON 15 June 2017

Clouds of smoke and no fire in AU's ICC withdrawal strategy

ICC Prosecutor calls for the immediate arrest and surrender of the suspects, Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi and Al-Tuhamy Mohamed Khaled to the Court

BY Journalists for Justice / ON 15 June 2017

Clouds of smoke and no fire in AU's ICC withdrawal strategy

Bensouda: Olive branch of peace is barren without the trunk of blind justice

BY Journalists for Justice / ON 13 June 2017

Clouds of smoke and no fire in AU's ICC withdrawal strategy

Ntaganda defense off to a rocky start as lawyers reel Rwanda, Uganda into trial

BY Susan Kendi / ON 13 June 2017

Clouds of smoke and no fire in AU's ICC withdrawal strategy

How LRA fighters lived with and fought alongside South Sudanese soldiers

BY Journalists for Justice / ON 23 May 2017

Clouds of smoke and no fire in AU's ICC withdrawal strategy

Ongwen still my boss, my friend and my brother – witness tells court

BY Journalists for Justice / ON 11 May 2017

Clouds of smoke and no fire in AU's ICC withdrawal strategy

Thousands of post-election violence rapists went scot-free in Kenya

BY Editor / ON 02 May 2017

Clouds of smoke and no fire in AU's ICC withdrawal strategy

How victims brought a cruel dictator to justice

BY Journalists for Justice / ON 02 May 2017

Clouds of smoke and no fire in AU's ICC withdrawal strategy

Judge Trendafilova heads new international court as it holds first public session

BY Journalists for Justice / ON 12 May 2017

Clouds of smoke and no fire in AU's ICC withdrawal strategy

New challenges for ICC on the horizon from the North as African threats to withdraw recede

BY Journalists for Justice / ON 22 March 2017

Clouds of smoke and no fire in AU's ICC withdrawal strategy

How attack on Pajule IDP camp was planned, by ICC witness

BY Journalists for Justice / ON 13 March 2017

Clouds of smoke and no fire in AU's ICC withdrawal strategy

Fear and loathing at Dominic Ongwen’s ICC trial

BY A map of the Barlonyo massacre / ON 08 March 2017

Clouds of smoke and no fire in AU's ICC withdrawal strategy

South Africa revokes notice to withdraw from the ICC

BY Journalists for Justice / ON 09 March 2017

Clouds of smoke and no fire in AU's ICC withdrawal strategy

You failed us on truth report, violence victims tell Uhuru Kenyatta

BY Journalists for Justice / ON 01 March 2017

Clouds of smoke and no fire in AU's ICC withdrawal strategy

Revealed: How prosecutors fought to protect witnesses in Kenyatta case

BY JFJustice / ON 07 April 2017

Clouds of smoke and no fire in AU's ICC withdrawal strategy

There is no way Kenya was going to take the AU chair

BY Ambassador Amina Mohammed / ON 02 February 2017

Clouds of smoke and no fire in AU's ICC withdrawal strategy

Bensouda challenges UN security council to end impasse on Darfur

BY Journalists for Justice / ON 09 January 2017

Clouds of smoke and no fire in AU's ICC withdrawal strategy

My baby girl dodged three abortions and an adoption

BY Journalists for Justice / ON 12 August 2016