Political parties in the Republic of Congo led protests and a petition to the government on Thursday to leave the International Criminal Court (ICC). The court has been heavily criticized as having a bias against African states, resulting in a number of them including influential South Africa announcing they will leave the body.
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The two parties in the Congo Republic’s ruling coalition, the Patriotic Front and the 2020 Awakening Movement, say that membership with the ICC is incompatible with the country’s constitution, specifically an article outlining extradition procedures.
“This measure in our constitution contradicts the operational mode of the ICC, which aims to ask signatory countries to hand over their citizens for whatever reason," Patriotic Front spokesman, Paolo Benaza, said according to Reuters.
Along with hundreds of protesters, both the parties marched in the capital Brazzaville to petition the government to withdraw from the court. The protesters and parties marched for around two kilometers to the Ministry of Justice to present the petition to Justice Minister Pierre Mabiala, who said he would look at the proposal before consulting the government.
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Critics of the petition argue the ruling parties want to leave the Hague court in order to guarantee impunity from crimes. But historically, the court has been criticized for requiring states to cooperate in bringing individuals to trial.
“States can withdraw from the ICC, but that does not exempt them from prosecution under the Convention against Torture, for example. We can start with the ICC, but justice will always catch up,” Roch Euloge Nzobo from the Centre for Rights and Development told AFP.
Last week, Gambia became the third African nation to leave the ICC, joining the exit of South Africa and Burundi who have cited similar concerns to those contained in the Republic of Congo petition. Kenya, Namibia and Uganda are also expected to announce their intention to leave the court.
Gambia’s Information Minister Sheriff Bojang labelled the ICC an “International Caucasian Court for the persecution and humiliation of people of color, especially Africans.”
The 124-state court was established in 2002 as the first of its kind to investigate and prosecute individuals for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. So far, nine out of 10 major investigations have been focused on Africa, neglecting serious crimes in other parts of the world.