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African groups urge leaders to support ICC

A group of 130 African organizations on Monday published a letter [text] urging [press release] African members of the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website; JURIST backgrounder] to declare their support for the court at the upcoming African Union (AU) [official website] summit. Amid accusations that the ICC has unevenly targeted Africa, there have been recent rumors that some African members are considering withdrawal from the Rome Statute [text, PDF; JURIST backgrounder]. The letter points out that "while the ICC's cases are entirely from Africa, the majority came before the court as a result of requests by the states where the crimes were committed." The groups do acknowledge that the court is not without its flaws, but they insist that "any withdrawal from the ICC would send the wrong signal about Africa's commitment to protect and promote human rights." The letter highlights the important roles that African states play in the ICC, and urges African leaders to keep in mind that "the court represents a vital instrument in the fight against impunity."

As acknowledged in the letter, all cases brought before the ICC have dealt with African countries. Because of this, the AU has repeatedly accused the ICC for being anti-African [BBC report]. Last month Kenya was the first country to approve a motion to leave the ICC [JURIST report; JURIST op-ed]. The move is in response to the trials [ICC backgrounder] of President Uhuru Kenyatta and Vice President William Ruto, who are accused of crimes against humanity and inciting violence after contested elections in 2007. In August the ICC announced [JURIST report] that there was reason to believe [press release] that, based upon the findings of a preliminary investigation, crimes against humanity have been committed in Nigeria by the militant Islamist group Boko Haram [BBC backgrounder]. In July Judge Sang Hyun Song [official profile], the president of the ICC, urged the international community [press release] to commit to bringing perpetrators of war crimes and genocide to justice [JURIST report].

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