The Namibian government has approved a recommendation by the ruling Swapo Party for the country to withdraw from the widely-discredited International Criminal Court (ICC).Namibia, which joined the ICC in 2002, becomes the first African country to announce such a bold stance, coming barely two months after South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) also recommended that the country withdraws from the glorified kangaroo court.
Zimbabwe is not a signatory to the Rome Statute that created the ICC, but President Mugabe — who is also African Union chairman — is on record denouncing the court, calling for the formation of an African Court of Justice.
South Africa and Namibia are signatories to the Rome Statute that gave rise to the formation of the 60-member ICC, which the AU does not recognise. Namibian Information Minister Mr Tjekero Tweya on Monday disclosed Cabinet’s recommendation for the country to leave the ICC at a media briefing where he also confirmed that the Ministry of International Relations and Cooperation was tasked to review the country’s foreign policy.
“Cabinet approved Namibia’s position regarding possible withdrawal from the International Criminal Court, given the discussions of the Swapo Party central committee on the issue,” said Mr Tweya. He, however, did not say when the Namibian government would withdraw, adding that “technical issues need to be sorted out first”.
Mr Tweya said Cabinet supported the withdrawal from the ICC after President Hage Geingob visited former Tanzanian president Jakaya Kikwete in Tanzania last month. President Geingob, who chairs the Namibian Cabinet was lobbying his counterpart in Tanzania, Mr Tweya said.
Swapo has over the years repeatedly criticised the ICC for being biased against African and other developing countries and targeting African leaders for indictment. In fact, President Geingob urged fellow African countries to pull out of the ICC if it is becoming an “abomination” by not serving its mandate.
In a prepared speech he was supposed to give at the African Union summit in South Africa, but was not delivered earlier this year, President Geingob said the ICC should stay out of the domestic affairs of countries such as Kenya.
“Some people are saying we are the ones who created the ICC. However, when one creates something to be an asset but later on it becomes an abomination, you have the right to quit it since it has ceased serving its intended purpose,” President Geingob said.
“No institution or country can dictate to Africans, who and by whom they should be governed. The ICC must therefore stay out of Kenya’s domestic affairs,” he said, referring to the case in which the ICC accused Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta of crimes against humanity. Namibia signed the Rome Statute in 2002, which means the country has committed itself to cooperating with the ICC to fight impunity worldwide.
In 2007, the National Society of Human Rights (NSHR), now NamRights, lodged a submission to the ICC, requesting that former President Sam Nujoma, former defence minister Erkki Nghimtina, former chief of defence Solomon ‘Jesus’ Hawala and NDF first battalion colonel Thomas Shuuya be investigated for ‘instigation, planning, supervision, abetting, aiding, and defending the disappearance of hundreds of Namibians.
NamRights claimed that under their leadership, 1600 people went missing along the Kavango River. ANC head of international relations commission, Mr Obed Bapela, said the decision to leave the ICC was made after the realisation that the body had lost its direction and was no longer pursuing its guiding principle.
Zimbabwean legal experts said the decision by the SA authorities had far reaching implications given that it was a major political and economic force on the continent and more countries would follow suit.
The decision by South Africa’s ruling ANC party comes as President Jacob Zuma’s government faces censure for disregarding an ICC construed court order to arrest the Sudanese president when he entered the country for an AU Summit earlier this year. Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir, who has been accused of genocide and war crimes, visited South Africa in June and was allowed to leave despite a court order to detain him.
In 2013, a number of AU member states threatened to pull out of the ICC in response to charges brought against Kenyan president Mr Kenyatta and his deputy Mr William Ruto. They were accused of fuelling violence in the wake of the country’s 2007 presidential elections, in which more than 1 000 people were reportedly killed.
There are 15 cases currently before the ICC, all of them against African nationals. There is every indication that the ICC is targeting African leaders, working to a script written in Washington, Paris and London.