The Gambia has announced its withdrawal from the international criminal court, accusing the tribunal of the â€œpersecution and humiliation of people of colour, especially Africansâ€.
The announcement late on Tuesday came after similar decisions this month by South Africa and Burundi to abandon the troubled institution, set up to handle the worldâ€™s worst crimes.
Sheriff Bojang, the information minister, said in an announcement on state television that the court had been used â€œfor the persecution of Africans and especially their leadersâ€ while ignoring crimes committed by the west.
He singled out the case of the former British prime minister Tony Blair, whom the ICC decided not to indict over the Iraq war.
â€œThere are many western countries, at least 30, that have committed heinous war crimes against independent sovereign states and their citizens since the creation of the ICC and not a single western war criminal has been indicted,â€ he said.
The withdrawal, he said, â€œis warranted by the fact that the ICC, despite being called international criminal court, is in fact an international caucasian court for the persecution and humiliation of people of colour, especially Africansâ€.
The ICC, set up in 2002, is often accused of bias against Africa and has also struggled with a lack of cooperation, including from the US, which signed the courtâ€™s treaty but has never ratified it.
The Gambia has been trying without success to use the court to punish the EU for deaths of thousands of African migrants trying to reach its shores. The decision will also come as a personal blow to the courtâ€™s chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, a former Gambian justice minister.
The court at the weekend asked South Africa and Burundi to reconsider their decisions to leave, which came as a major blow to the institution.
â€œI urge them to work together with other states in the fight against impunity, which often causes massive violations of human rights,â€ Sidiki Kaba, president of the assembly of state parties to the ICC founding treaty, said in a statement.
South Africaâ€™s decision followed a dispute last year when the Sudanese president, Omar al-Bashir, visited the country despite being the subject of an ICC arrest warrant over alleged war crimes. Earlier this month, Burundi said it would leave the court, while Namibia and Kenya have also raised the possibility.
Kaba said he was concerned that South Africa and Burundiâ€™s decisions would pave the way for other African states to leave the court.
The tribunal is tasked with â€œprosecuting the most serious crimes that shock the conscience of humanity, namely genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and crimes of aggressionâ€.
The courtâ€™s former prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo criticised Burundi and South Africa, accusing them of giving leaders on the continent a free hand â€œto commit genocideâ€.
â€œBurundi is leaving the ICC to keep committing crimes against humanity and possible genocide in its territory. Burundiâ€™s president wants free hands to attack civilians,â€ he said.
He added that the former South African president Nelson Mandela had â€œpromoted the establishment of the court to avoid new massive crimes in Africa. Now under the Zuma leadership South Africa decided to cover up the crimes and abandoned African victims. The world is going backward.â€
â€œThe chaos is coming. Genocide in Burundi and a new African war are in motion,â€ he said.