The International Criminal Court (ICC) has rejected allegations of bias against African countries and denied its investigations focus exclusively on Africa. A spokesperson for the court told IBTimes UK the prosecutor's office is conducting preliminary examinations on other continents, including Afghanistan, Colombia, Iraq, Palestine and Ukraine.
Spokesperson Fadi El-Abdallah made the remarks days after the African Union (AU) approved a strategy for a mass-withdrawal from the ICC, a signal of Africa's increasing frustration towards the perceived biased attitude of the court.
"ICC's focus is not on a specific continent, country, party or community. Its mission is to prosecute the perpetrators of the most serious crimes and to establish justice for the benefit of victims and of future generations,"Abdallah said.
The AU's decision approved strategy for a mass-withdrawal – which is not legally binding – came as no surprise after two African countries, South Africa and Burundi, announced their withdrawal in 2016. Kenya, which the ICC is currently investigating, said it was watching the withdrawals "with very keen interest".
Since its establishment in 2002, the court has opened 10 investigation. One in Georgia, and the rest in Africa: Central African Republic, Ivory Coast, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Libya, Mali and Uganda. All the people indicted by the court are Africans.
Some African leaders and analysts have thus claimed the ICC seems prone to prosecute African figures, while it ignores perpetrators of the same crimes in other parts of the world.
Is a mass-withdrawal likely?
Not all African countries are in favour of a mass-withdrawal, which is unlikely to happen in the near future.
Senegal, Nigeria and Botswana are among the nations that have expressed reservations against the mass-withdrawal.
An AU spokesperson said the organisation's debate on the ICC – held in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa on 1 February 2017 – was quite divisive, a clear sign that the will to leave the court is not unanimous.
But Abdallah defended the ICC's decision to start investigations in the African countries, arguing that in some cases – namely Uganda, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Central African Republic and Mali – the governments of such nations had called for the court's intervention.
"Five investigations were referred to the Court by the concerned African states parties themselves recognising the inability to address the crimes at stake and two were referred by the United Nations Security Council [Darfur and Libya] where African States are represented," he explained.
"Côte d'Ivoire had voluntarily accepted the jurisdiction of the Court, giving the Prosecutor the possibility to open an investigation. In Kenya, the ICC Prosecutor opened an investigation, with the Chamber's authorisation, but only after thorough discussions and with the support of Kenyan authorities," Abdallah continued.
"Moreover the Prosecutor 's office is also conducting preliminary examinations on other continents, including in Afghanistan, Colombia, Iraq, Palestine, and Ukraine."
The AU's plan for amass-withdrawal has created some confusion on its meaning in the past few days. Abdallah explained the court has not yet received official information on the strategy. However, he called for more cooperation among nations to bring justice to thousands of victims.
"African victims, and all victims in the world, deserve justice, and the ICC's mandate within its jurisdiction is to complement, not to replace, national judicial efforts to bring justice for grave crimes under international law," he said.