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Botswana reaffirms support for ICC, ‘regrets’ SA decision

Gaborone - The government of Botswana has become the first African country to "regret" the decision taken by South Africa to leave the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Botswana’s ministry of foreign affairs confirmed to News24 that it had indeed released a statement that circulated on social media on Wednesday in which it “regretted” South Africa’s decision to withdraw from the Hague-based court.

“While Botswana fully respects the sovereign right of any country to become a party to, or to withdraw from any international instrument, the Government of Botswana nonetheless regrets that the Government of South Africa reached this decision,” read part of the statement.

South Africa dealt a heavy blow to the international court on Friday by announcing it was withdrawing from the institution set up to prosecute the world’s worst crimes.

The decision followed a dispute last year when Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir visited the country for an African Union (AU) summit despite facing an ICC warrant over alleged war crimes.

South Africa was the second country last week, after Burundi, to move to leave the ICC.

Gambia on Tuesday also joined the queue to leave the international court, accusing it of “humiliating Africans”.

But Botswana reaffirmed its support for “a strong international criminal justice system”.

“Botswana is convinced that as the only permanent international criminal tribunal, the ICC is an important unique institution in the international criminal justice system. Botswana therefore wishes to reaffirm its membership of the Rome statute and reiterate its support for a strong international criminal justice system through the ICC,” the statement said.

Only Africans have been charged in the six ICC cases that are ongoing or about to begin, though preliminary ICC investigations have opened elsewhere.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni over the weekend described the ICC as “useless”, as he praised South Africa and Burundi’s move to leave the tribunal.

“It is a very good decision that South Africa has done that. In fact it is [the ICC] that is very useless,” Museveni was quoted as saying.

In July this year, Botswana defended the ICC, even as some of its continental peers threatened to revoke their membership of the tribunal, according to Bloomberg.

“The best defense is not to abuse, stick to the law… We would never allow our president to get away with murder. We are not being prescriptive, we are just asking that we up the game,” Botswana’s vice president Mokgweetsi Masisi was quoted as saying at an AU summit in Kigali, Rwanda on July 17.

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