The Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC) has told IBTimes UK it is not currently planning an investigation into alleged crimes committed by former Gambian president Yahya Jammeh. The former leader, who ruled The Gambia for 22 years, has often attracted criticism for - among other things – persecuting homosexuals, activists and political opponents and inciting ethnic hatred.
"There are currently no investigation and no preliminary examination that [have] been opened," the court's spokesperson, Fadi El-Abdalla, explained. He added the ICC cannot probe crimes that happened before 1 July 2002, when the court was set up.
He had sparked a political crisis in Gambia after refusing to relinquish power to the designated winner opposition leader Adama Barrow despite losing presidential elections held in December 2016.
Will Jammeh be prosecuted?
Jammeh's choice of country for his exile sowed division among the public, with some arguing the former strongman would escape prosecution if he remained in Equatorial Guinea, which does not recognise the ICC's jurisdiction.
"Equatorial Guinea is obviously the safest choice for a fugitive: They are not a member of the ICC, they are not even a member of Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas), so it is one of the most insulated places in Africa from international law," international lawyer Robert Amsterdam, founder of Amsterdam & Partners LLP, told IBTimes UK.
"In accepting Jammeh into the country, President Teodoro Obiang has just inherited a liability, right at a moment in which he was trying to deepen his credibility in the region," he continued.
The new leader also added he would overturn Jammeh's decision to pull out from the ICC, which some saw as a ploy to avoid a possible prosecution.
"The smartest thing that the new government can do is file cases against the top tier of leadership, but focus on working out an amnesty and truth commission that would seek to reintegrate former state officials to keep the country united," Amsterdam said.
"In numerous experiences when power is transferred in Africa, there is an extraordinary obsession with pursuing cases against the previous leadership - it becomes a core narrative for a new government," he continued.
"Whether or not Jammeh is dragged before a court shouldn't stop the new administration from rebuilding the Gambia and delivering prosperity and growth to the people."