Gambia’s Foreign Minister Ousainou Darboe has notified UN Secretary General António Guterres that the West African nation is discontinuing its decision to withdraw from the Rome Statute.
“Gambia still considers herself as a state-party to the statue of the ICC and will continue to honor her obligations as a new government that has committed itself to the promotion of human rights and democracy, good governance and respect for the rule of law,” Mr. Darboe said.
At a time that African countries are planning a mass exit from the war crimes court, former ruler Yahya Jammeh notified the UN of the Gambia’s intent to withdraw, a month before he lost elections last year.
Gambia’s current President Adama Barrow defeated Jammeh in the December polls and promised to reverse his controversial decisions including the former longstanding leader’s unilateral decision to withdraw the country from the International Criminal Court and the Commonwealth of Nations.
Jammeh and other African leaders took issues with the ICC after it attempted to prosecute Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Vice President William Ruto. They accuse the court of racial bias although its Chief Prosecutor is Gambian-born Fatou Bensouda, a former Attorney General and Justice Minister for Mr. Jammeh.
Jammeh called the court the “International Caucasian Court for the humiliation of the colored people.”
President Adama Barrow’s pick for Chief Justice, former UN Prosecutor Hassan B. Jallow pleaded with the Jammeh Administration to rescind its decision to withdraw from the International Criminal Court.
The Gambia’s return to the ICC is no surprise with human rights lawyer Ousainou Darboe and another former UN Prosecutor Aboubcarr Baa Tambadou being key advisers to Mr. Barrow.
Darboe said he would support the prosecution of Jammeh in The Hague if there is adequate evidence. Jammeh has, however, made himself unreachable to the court.
He made the choice to seek a safe haven in Equatorial Guinea, a country ruled by another human rights abuser and non-member of the International Criminal Court.
Jammeh and his henchmen committed serious human rights violations including arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance, killings, rapes and torture against those who voiced opposition to the government.
Gambia’s new government is keen on upholding human rights and the rule of law, promises that have brought in renewed support from the international community, especially from the country’s main development partner, the European Union, which is poised to give the country more than €250 million in development and budgetary aid.