ICC oversight chief calls on South Africa, Burundi to remain

AP News
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Posted: Oct 24, 2016 3:36 PM

DAKAR, Senegal (AP) — The chief of the International Criminal Court's oversight board called on South Africa and Burundi to abandon their decision to withdraw from the court, a move some fear could prompt a mass exodus of other African countries.

"We must seize this opportunity to engage in dialogue," said Sidiki Kaba, also Senegal's justice minister. Member states will be meeting from Nov. 16-24 where negotiations can be discussed and a dynamic consensus can be found, he said.

"The Assembly of States Parties is the established framework to listen to what changes can be made," said Kaba, president of the ICC's Assembly.

Kaba acknowledged criticism that the court, based in The Hague, Netherlands, mostly prosecutes African nationals, adding "But we must also remember that these are African states that have applied to the court."

All states must work together to fight impunity for the most heinous crimes committed around the world, including genocide.

Kaba spoke as South Africa's main opposition party criticized the government's decision last week to withdraw from the ICC, which has more than 120 member states.

Also last week, Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza signed legislation to withdraw from the ICC.

Human Rights Watch has called South Africa's decision to withdraw from the ICC an "enormous blow to its commitment to justice for atrocity crimes," and called on ICC member states to reaffirm their support.

But some African countries have argued the court has unfairly targeted their continent and they are strengthening their own institutions to deal with threats to human rights.

Some cite the example of The Extraordinary African Chambers, set up by Senegal and the African Union to try Chad's former dictator Hissene Habre for abuses committed during his 1982-1990 rule. He was found guilty in May on several charges, including war crimes, and sentenced to life imprisonment.