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Gambia says it is leaving International Criminal Court

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    Associated Press

Dakar   /   Wed, October 26, 2016   /  11:48 am
Gambia says it is leaving International Criminal Court Members of Burundi's Parliament prepare for the swearing-in ceremony of President Pierre Nkurunziza, in the parliament building in Bujumbura, Burundi, Aug. 20, 2015. Lawmakers in Burundi overwhelmingly voted on Oct. 12, 2016 in support of a plan to withdraw from the International Criminal Court (ICC), escalating a bitter dispute with the international community over the human rights situation in the East African country, although the decision is not immediate. (AP/Gildas Ngingo)

A third African country, Gambia, says it will leave the International Criminal Court as fears grow of a mass pullout from the body that pursues some of the world's worst atrocities.

Gambia announced the decision on television Tuesday night, accusing the court of unfairly targeting Africa and calling it the "International Caucasian Court."

The move comes after South Africa, once a strong ICC supporter under former President Nelson Mandela, notified the United Nations secretary-general it would leave the court.

(Read also: South Africa to withdraw from International Criminal Court)

Early last week, Burundi's president signed legislation to leave the court as well.

Only Africans have been charged in the six ICC cases that are ongoing or about to begin, though preliminary ICC investigations have opened elsewhere.

Gambia's decision is also striking because the ICC's chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, is Gambian.

The information minister of the tiny West African country, Sheriff Baba Bojang, said in the statement late Tuesday that the court is involved in "the persecution of Africans, and especially their leaders." He accused "at least 30" Western countries of having committed war crimes against their citizens since the ICC was founded more than a decade ago and said none has been targeted by the court.

The minister said Gambia has begun the process of withdrawing from the ICC, which involves notifying the UN secretary-general and takes effect a year after the notification is received.

Rights groups often accuse Gambian President Yahya Jammeh, one of Africa's longest-serving leaders, of abuses including a clampdown on political opponents. The next presidential election is in December.

Officials with other top African critics of the court, including Uganda and Kenya, have said in recent days they have not yet decided whether to leave the ICC as well. Uganda said it will be a "hot topic" at an African Union meeting in January.

(Read also: Why African states have started leaving the ICC)

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