African leaders Saturday urged the International Criminal Court (ICC) to suspend the trial of Kenya’s President, Uhuru Kenyatta and that of the Sudanese President, Omar al-Bashir.
Kenyatta, and his deputy, William Ruto, have been accused of orchestrating large-scale violence after a disputed 2007 election, charges they deny.
Kenyatta’s trial is due to start on November 12, while Ruto’s began last month.
On his part, al Bashir, is facing charges of genocide and the ICC has issued a warrant of arrest against him for not appearing before the court for trial.
The leaders after an extraordinary session of the African Union Heads of State and Government, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, called on the United Nations Security Council to defer the trial of Kenyatta under article 16 of the court’s Rome Statute, which allows for an initial delay of a year, or it would seek an alternative means of postponement.
“If that is not met, what the summit decided is that President Kenyatta should not appear until the request we have made is actually answered,” Ethiopian Foreign Minister Tedros Adhanom told journalists in Addis Ababa after the meeting.
Earlier, African leader, including President Goodluck Jonathan, had criticised the ICC’s stance on the matter, which they considered discriminatory against the continent.
Jonathan in his speech, called for the amendment to the ICC statute to confer immunity on some African leaders from prosecution while in office.
According to a report by Reuters, without an agreed legal delay in court proceedings, any decision by Kenyatta not to attend the ICC trial could prompt an arrest warrant, a step Western nations have wanted to avoid as it would complicate already tricky relations with a regional ally.
“We would like our concerns to be heard loud and clear,” Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, whose country chairs the African Union, told the closing session.
A group led by the AU chair, with representatives from Africa’s five regions, will press the U.N. Security Council to defer proceedings against Kenya’s leadership and the Sudanese president, who faces charges of genocide.
Unlike the Kenyan politicians, Bashir has long defied an arrest warrant, deepening his nation’s alienation by the West.
“We have agreed that no charges shall be commenced or continued before any international court or tribunal against any serving head of state or government, or anybody acting or entitled to act in such capacity during his or her term of office,” Hailemariam said.
In his opening remarks, the Ethiopian prime minister said African states were not on a “crusade” against the court.
In his contribution to the debate on the issue, Jonathan advocated an amendment to the laws governing the ICC so that African leaders could have immunity from prosecution for war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity.
The president expressed disappointment, just like some of his colleagues on the continent, with how the ICC had been handling issues affecting African leaders.
Jonathan, who acknowledged the role of the ICC in achieving a world without crimes against humanity, genocide and other acts of impunity, equally noted that in Africa today, the wave of democratisation had led to greater commitment to the rule of law and respect for fundamental human rights.
He said: “While the work of the International Criminal Court is immensely useful for the achievement of a world without crimes against humanity, genocide and other acts of impunity, it would be fair to say that in Africa today, the wave of democratisation has engendered greater commitment to the rule of law and respect for fundamental human rights.”
“The Constitutive Act of our Union explicitly prohibits war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity with clear sanctions for violations. I am convinced that our Union and the International Criminal Court are united in our principles and objectives on these matters.
“This is why the profound dissatisfaction that has been expressed about the court’s relationship with Africa deserves the special attention that this assembly is paying to it at this session.
“It is also the reason why the refusal of the International Criminal Court to accede to the requests by our member-states for the deferral of the cases involving the President of Sudan, and now, the President and Deputy President of Kenya, has left many of us in the African continent disappointed.
“Many are concerned that the African Union’s principled position that African leaders should not be targeted by the ICC has been ignored, and that the ICC, despite its universal jurisdiction, seems to be devoting unusual energy and enthusiasm to the prosecution of cases from Africa, compared to cases from other parts of the world.
“If the court is concerned about this implied allegation of bias; it has not, in our opinion, taken enough proactive steps to address it and allay the fears of concerned stakeholders. We think it should.”
Posted by SirVic for wetopup(News Laboratry)