Cape Town – Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, has said that the AU "has no standing in the ICC" and therefore, it is "purely" the decision of African countries to join or to withdraw from the Hague-based tribunal.
Dlamini-Zuma said this in Pretoria where she engaged with South African editors on her blueprint agenda 2063 for the AU.
"The AU commission has no standing in the ICC. We are not members. It’s a purely sovereign decision of each country to join or to pull out," Dlamini Zuma said.
Listen to the audio piece below as she speaks.
Her remarks came following the move last week by South Africa to withdraw from the Rome statute.
The decision followed a dispute last year when Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir visited the country for an AU summit despite facing an ICC warrant over alleged war crimes.
South Africa was the second country in the same week, after Burundi, to leave the ICC.
Meanwhile, Gambia, on Tuesday also joined the queue to leave the international court, accusing it of “humiliating Africans”.
Dlamini-Zuma maintained that Africa had a mechanism to try its own leaders, adding that the ICC was the “last instance”.
"Countries must strengthen their judiciary. The ICC is the court of last instance. The first instance are the national courts. They must be strengthened so that they can indeed deal with situations that arise," she said.
Dlamini-Zuma made reference to the trial of former Chad president Hissen Habre who was sentenced to life in May for crimes against humanity.
Habre was sentenced by a special African Union court set up to try him a quarter century after he fled to Senegal following his 1990 ouster by the country’s current president Idriss Deby.
Habre was also ordered to pay compensation to thousands of his victims of up to $33 000 each.
The landmark conviction was seen by rights campaigners as a victory in the fight against impunity.
"We at the moment have the former president of Chad who has been tried in an African court agreed by the AU, funded by the AU, with judges coming from the AU. He has been tried for atrocities in Chad and he was found guilty. Of course he is now appealing the sentence. But I’m saying that the continent has mechanisms also of dealing with this," said Dlamini-Zuma.
She reiterated that the court that tried Habre was indeed authentic.
"The court that tried Habre is not weak. It was set up to specifically try him. It has tried hi. It has found him guilty and it has sentenced him. So it’s possible to have a tribunal court in Africa," said Dlamini-Zuma.