The Hague based International Criminal Court asked South Africa and Burundi to reconsider their decisions to withdraw from the troubled institution set up to try the world’s worst crimes.
“Although withdrawing from a treaty is a sovereign act, I regret these decisions and invite South Africa and Burundi to reconsider their positions,” said Sidiki Kaba, president of the assembly of state parties to the ICC founding treaty.
“I urge them to work together with other States in the fight against impunity, which often causes massive violations of human rights,” Kaba said in a statement.
The statement came a day after South Africa dealt a major blow to the court by announcing it would withdraw from the ICC.
The announcement followed a dispute last year when Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir visited the country despite being the subject of an ICC arrest warrant over alleged war crimes.
Earlier this month, Burundi said it would leave the court, while Namibia and Kenya have also raised the possibility.
The ICC, set up in 2002, is often accused of bias against Africa and has also struggled with a lack of cooperation, including from the United States which has signed the court’s treaty but never ratified it.
– ‘The chaos is coming’ -Kaba said he was concerned that South Africa and Burundi’s decisions would “pave the way” for other African states to leave the court, which is tasked with “prosecuting the most serious crimes that shock the conscience of humanity, namely genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and crimes of aggression”.
The ICC on Saturday confirmed South Africa had officially notified the court of its decision to leave, adding that the move had come in the wake of Burundi’s withdrawal process.
The court’s former prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo criticised Burundi and South Africa, accusing them of giving leaders on the continent a free hand “to commit genocide”.
“Burundi and South Africa withdrawing from the ICC shows the Court’s relevance,” said Ocampo, who was the court’s first prosecutor.
“Burundi is leaving the ICC to keep committing crimes against humanity and possible genocide in its territory. Burundi’s president wants free hands to attack civilians.”
He added that former South African president Nelson Mandela had “promoted the establishment of the Court to avoid new massive crimes in Africa. Now under the Zuma leadership South Africa decided to cover up the crimes and abandoned African victims. The world is going backward”.
“The chaos is coming. Genocide in Burundi and a new African war are in motion. South Africa’s move is showing political protection for Burundi,” he said.