The African Union (AU) has encouraged its Member States to withdraw from the International Criminal Court (ICC). Although the resolution is not binding, South Africa and Burundi have already decided to withdraw while Senegal and Nigeria oppose the move. The African Union has accused the ICC of intervening in African affairs and undermining the sovereignty of African states. The court denies the Union’s allegations and insists that it solely pursues justice for victims of war crimes on the continent.
The decision to withdraw from the ICC is the second breakthrough move that has come out of its annual summit of heads of state in Addis Ababa. The first one was a decision to readmit Morocco’s into the African Union after more than 30 years. The AU also said that it would hold talks with the UN Security Council, urging the ICC to reform. Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir, who is wanted by the court on charges of genocide in Darfur, attended at the summit after the South Africa had been criticized for having failed to arrest him when he attended an AU gathering in Johannesburg in 2015.
The ICC investigates and tries individuals charged with the gravest crimes of concern to the international community: genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. Rome Stature that established the court was adopted in 1998 by 120 countries and then ratified by 60 in 2002, thus officially founding the ICC. Nowadays, the Statute has 123 signatories out of which 34 are African states and the United States is a notable absence. The ICC does not have retrospective jurisdiction and therefore only deals with crimes committed after this date. There have been 23 cases before the Court to date and only Africans have been prosecuted so far.