By Louis Charbonneau
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Tunisia, whose demonstrations inspired the so-called 'Arab Spring' uprisings across the region, on Friday became the first North African state to join the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Tunisia is the 116th country to sign the Rome Statute, which established the world's first permanent war crimes court in The Hague. Having signed the necessary documents to join the ICC, Tunisia will become a party to the treaty on September 1, which will subject it to the court's jurisdiction.
"The ICC welcomes Tunisia's accession as a decision to join the international community's efforts to put an end to impunity for the perpetrators of the most serious crimes of international concern -- genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and aggression," the ICC said on its website.
It said Tunisia, whose 'Jasmine Revolution' earlier this year inspired pro-democracy demonstrations and uprisings across North Africa and the Middle East, was the first North African country and the fourth member of the Arab League to become an ICC member.
"Its accession highlights the ICC's role as a key actor in the field of international criminal justice at a time of dynamic changes for the region," the ICC statement said.
Other Arab and Muslim states have been suspicious of the court, concerned that it is a tool of the Western powers.
ICC judges are expected to announce on Monday whether they will issue arrest warrants for Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, his son Saif al-Islam and his intelligence chief, brother-in-law Abdullah al-Senussi, over the government's crackdown against anti-government protesters.
Even though Libya is not a party to the ICC, the U.N. Security Council referred the violence in Libya to the court in February. ICC chief prosecutor asked ICC to indict Gaddafi, his son and Senussi for crimes against humanity in May.
Analysts say that the Arab Spring and the Security Council's referral of Libya could mark a pivotal shift in support for the ICC. [ID:nLDE72R0XW] Another Arab country that is considering joining the court is Egypt, diplomats say.
(Reporting by Louis Charbonneau)