THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP)—When the treaty creating the International Criminal Court was opened for signatories in 1998, Egyptian-born legal scholar Mahmoud Cherif Bassiouni called it “a triumph for all peoples of the world.’’
Fast-forward 18 years, and the lofty ideal of establishing a court that would end impunity for atrocities and deliver justice to victims is reeling from the announced departures of three African member states: Burundi, South Africa and Gambia. Never before has one of the court’s 124 member states quit. Now three have.
Concerns are growing that more African countries will leave.
The court, which this year moved into a new headquarters in The Hague, long has been accused by some African leaders of bias against their continent. At first glance, it’s easy to see why.
Since the Rome Statute treaty creating the court came into force in 2002, the ICC has convicted only four people of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Three were from Congo and one from Mali.
The court, so far, has indicted only suspects from Africa, ranging from notorious Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony to Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and late Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi. It currently has 10 full-scale investigations underway, with nine in Africa and the other in the former Soviet republic of Georgia.