The African Union has backed a plan to push for a collective withdrawal from the International Criminal Court (ICC), which many countries on the continent believe unfairly targets them.

But the decision, taken by African leaders during a closed door session at the recent African Union Summit in Ethiopia, is not legally binding.

The continent has 34 signatories to the Rome Statute, the treaty which set up the court.

The debate on the ICC was hugely divisive on the question of whether this should be individual or collective withdrawal.

Burundi, South Africa and The Gambia have already announced plans to leave the court – although the new Gambian leader has said he will reverse that decision.

Several countries, led by Nigeria and Senegal, strongly supported the court and argued for African countries to remain as members of the court.

So it will be left to individual countries to decide whether to implement the withdrawal plan.

And the resolution also called for African members of the ICC to hold a meeting with the UN Security Council to discuss reforms of the global court.   

It also pushed for the strengthening of the African Court of Justice and Human Rights to enable it deal with war crimes and cases of genocide.

African leaders say the court has strayed off course by targeting presidents like Omar al-Bashir of Sudan, accused of atrocities in Darfur and Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya for inciting post-election violence in 2007 – though his case was dropped in 2014.

Both men denied the allegations.