DAKAR, Senegal, Oct 25 – The International Criminal Court on Monday urged member states to seek a consensus with critical African nations, while stressing that South Africa and Burundi’s announced departures would not take place for at least year.
“Today more than ever, there is a huge need for universal justice,” said Sidiki Kaba, president of the assembly of state parties to the ICC founding treaty, evoking “the tragedies which are happening in front of our eyes”.
Kaba, also Senegal’s justice minister, said it was necessary “to engage in dialogue with the nations which want to leave the ICC. For that we must listen to their concerns, their recriminations and their criticism”.
South Africa dealt a heavy blow to the troubled international court on Friday by announcing it was withdrawing from an institution set up to prosecute the world’s worst crimes.
The decision followed a dispute last year when Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir visited the country for an African Union summit despite facing an ICC arrest warrant over alleged war crimes.
And earlier this month, Burundian lawmakers overwhelmingly voted to withdraw from the ICC.
Rights organisations said Burundi’s government was trying to hide abuses from the eyes of the world.
Namibia and Kenya have also raised the possibility of leaving the ICC, which has often been accused of bias against African leaders.
Of the 10 ICC probes since 2002 when the court was established, nine have been into African countries and one into Georgia, although most ICC cases have been referred to the court by African governments themselves.
Kaba told reporters in Dakar that any formal withdrawal request would only take effect after a year.
He urged the members states considering such a move to “give dialogue a chance,” adding that the next general assembly in November would be a good forum for finding “a dynamic consensus”.
The Senegalese minister also called for national judicial systems to be reinforced to allow “Africans to judge Africans on the continent”.