The Gambia has announced its withdrawal from the international criminal court, accusing the tribunal of the “persecution and humiliation of people of colour, especially Africans”.
The announcement late on Tuesday came after similar decisions this month by South Africa and Burundi to abandon the troubled institution, set up to handle the world’s worst crimes.
Sheriff Bojang, the information minister, said in an announcement on Gambian state television that the court had been used “for the persecution of Africans and especially their leaders” while ignoring crimes committed by the west.
He singled out the case of the former British prime minister Tony Blair, whom the ICC decided not to indict over the Iraq war.
“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,” he said.
The withdrawal, he said, “is warranted by the fact that the ICC, despite being called international criminal court, is in fact an international caucasian court for the persecution and humiliation of people of colour, especially Africans”.
The ICC, set up in 2002, is often accused of bias against Africa and has also struggled with a lack of cooperation, including from the US, which signed the court’s treaty but has never ratified it.
The Gambia has been trying without success to use the court to punish the EU for deaths of thousands of African migrants trying to reach its shores. The decision will also come as a personal blow to the court’s chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, a former Gambian justice minister.
The court at the weekend asked South Africa and Burundi to reconsider their decisions to leave, which came as a major blow to the institution.