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Amnesty International Blasts Gambia ICC Withdrawal

FILE - Judges of the International Criminal Court (ICC) are seen in session in The Hague, Netherlands, June 27, 2011.
FILE - Judges of the International Criminal Court (ICC) are seen in session in The Hague, Netherlands, June 27, 2011.

Rights group Amnesty International is denouncing Gambia's withdrawal from the International Criminal Court, calling it "a blow to millions of victims around the world."

Gambia accused the ICC Tuesday of ignoring "war crimes" as it announced its withdrawal from the Hague-based court. The West African country's decision follows the withdrawals of South Africa and Burundi from the ICC.

"Rather than joining this drastic march away from justice, other African states should follow the lead of Botswana... to "work constructively with the court to resolve any legitimate issues," Amnesty Research and Advocacy Director for Africa Netsanet Belay said Wednesday.

Belay said, "For many Africans the ICC presents the only avenue for justice for the crimes they have suffered."

Gambia's announcement is "particularly shocking," Belay said, given that ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda is Gambian and "a champion of international justice and the fight against global impunity."

Gambia alleges bias

Gambia's information minister, Sheriff Bojang, said Tuesday "the ICC, despite being called the International Criminal Court, is in fact an International Caucasian Court for the persecution and humiliation of people of color, especially Africans."

The government of Botswana said Tuesday that it regretted the decision by the South African government to withdraw from the ICC. The southern African country affirmed its membership in the court and reiterated its support for a strong international criminal justice system through the ICC.

Critics of the ICC say it has focused on Africa and ignored war crimes in other parts of the world. All but one of the 10 investigations launched so far by the ICC have taken place in African countries.

"There are many Western countries, at least 30, that have committed heinous war crimes against independent sovereign states and their citizens since the creation of the ICC and not a single Western war criminal has been indicted," the Gambian government said in a statement.

Earlier this week, Gambian President Yahya Jammeh asked the court to investigate African migrant deaths in the Mediterranean Sea. In its statement, Gambia said it asked the court to bring charges against the European Union over the migrant deaths, but received no response.

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