Nairobia - A group of African legal and rights experts on Thursday called on Burundi, South Africa and Gambia to reconsider their plans to withdraw from the International Criminal Court (ICC).
The African Group for Justice and Accountability (AGJA) - consisting of lawyers, prosecutors, judges, academics and human rights activists - called on the countries' leaders to "reconsider and recommit themselves to the Rome Statute", the treaty that established the ICC, a global court headquartered in The Hague.
The AGJA was set up a year ago aiming to improve relations between the international court and Africa's leaders, some of whom say the continent has been unfairly targeted for prosecution or investigation.
Last week Burundi became the first country to declare its intention to leave the ICC, after the court's prosecutor said she might open a case against the government.
South Africa and Gambia followed suit, raising fears of an exodus of African countries, many of which are founding members of the court.
"Withdrawals from the ICC constitute a serious obstacle to the rights of victims to justice and the duty of states to ensure accountability for mass atrocities. They close an important recourse to justice and undermine the global fight against impunity," said AGJA member Hassan Bubacar Jallow, former prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and, like the ICC's current chief prosecutor, a Gambian national.
AGJA noted that African countries including Botswana and Senegal had voiced their concern at the announced withdrawals and encouraged others to remain committed to the court.