Leaders of multiple African countries announced Wednesday that they have backed a “strategy of collective withdrawal” from the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website]. Prior to this weeks’ African Union (AU) [official website] summit, the AU issued a document seen by Reuters that proposed a coordinated withdrawal [Reuters report] unless the ICC was reformed. The AU claims that the ICC is improperly focusing on prosecuting individuals from African countries, and their exit could be significant, as almost a third of the ICC’s member countries are African.
The African Union and the ICC have had a tumultuous relationship over the course of the past year. In July an advisory board to the African Union accused ICC of narrowly focusing [JURIST report] its investigations on African government leaders since its inception in 2002. The Economic Social and Cultural Council (ECOSOCC) recommended that AU members should quit the ICC should lawmakers follow through with a proposed amendment allowing the prosecution and arrest of African heads of state. Opponents of the recommendation have voiced concerns that quitting the ICC would increase the risk of human rights violations. Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] also stated that giving African leaders immunity would defeat the purpose of the ICC’s creation [press release].