A slew of African countries reaffirmed their backing for the International Criminal Court (ICC) during the past two days, giving much-needed support to the court in the wake of recently announced withdrawals by South Africa, Burundi, and Gambia.
African governments took the floor during the general debate session of the ICC’s annual meeting and signaled their continued support and membership in the court. The reaffirmation of support by states helped tamp down speculation over mass withdrawal from the ICC.
Some governments that expressed support raised criticisms, calling for more dialogue on some African members’ concerns with the court. Others focused on broader problems, pointing to inconsistent action by the United Nations Security Council on global justice.
Burundi and South Africa spoke to justify their decisions to withdraw.
A number of countries spoke out for the first time on the withdrawals to endorse the court.
Nigeria declared its “unflinching” support for the ICC and urged for more resources for the court.
Democratic Republic of Congo announced it will not withdraw and affirmed its “firm commitment” to continue cooperating with the ICC.
Ivory Coast expressed its “wish to renew” its commitment to the court, and Botswana reaffirmed its support.
Tunisia highlighted that the ICC is often the “only avenue for justice” for many victims and reaffirmed its commitment.
Ghana reaffirmed its commitment, and said it will continue to be a “strong supporter.”
Mali said it would remain with the ICC and that states can better respond to the needs of justice from within the system.
Burkina Faso reiterated its commitment and said withdrawals “will only undermine justice.”
Tanzania said the ICC is an “inspiration” and has “exclusive importance.”
Lesotho reaffirmed its support, and said that “change must come from within.”
Uganda, which has previously strongly criticized the court, affirmed its support and commitment to cooperate.
Kenya lashed out against criticism of withdrawals, but was silent on its membership and urged the assembly to work collectively for reform.
Only Namibia said withdrawal remained an option, but noted a decision had not been taken – despite media reports that the cabinet had decided on withdrawal last year.
All of these statements are welcome news, including for the nearly 200 African groups that called for African ICC member countries to lend greater support for the court in the wake of the withdrawals.