Netherlands voices deep concern at threatened withdrawal from ICC by African countries

Dutch foreign minister Bert Koenders has expressed deep concern that African countries intend to withdraw from membership of the International Criminal Court in The Hague. ‘For the Netherlands, which is home to the ICC, this is an extremely troubling development,’ he said. 

Following Burundi’s announcement earlier this week that it plans to withdraw from the ICC, South Africa today announced that it too intends to leave.

Mr Koenders emphasised that the ICC plays a crucial role in tackling impunity. ‘The victims of international crimes deserve justice, wherever they live,’ the minister said. ‘If a country is unable or unwilling to prosecute such crimes, the International Criminal Court is a vital last resort for preventing impunity.’

There has long been criticism levelled at the ICC by a number of countries. But Mr Koenders argued that pulling out was not the right way to address the problems. ‘The International Criminal Court embodies universal norms and values. African countries were closely involved in the negotiations on the Rome Statute and the establishment of the Court.’

There are currently 124 parties to the ICC, including 34 African countries. ‘To make the Court more robust and more effective we need Africa’s input now more than ever,’ Mr Koenders noted. The Netherlands is holding an active dialogue with the countries concerned, and it continues working with the ICC’s other supporters to strengthen the Court and so prevent the withdrawal of states parties.

Mr Koenders plans to raise this issue at EU level. The Netherlands has already spoken to the President of the ICC’s Assembly of States Parties, Senegalese justice minister Sidiki Kaba.