Connect to share and comment

Africa closes ranks to condemn ICC on Kenya cases

PlacardEnlarge
(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

African leaders prepared Monday to pass a resolution urging the International Criminal Court to end crimes against humanity cases against Kenya's top leaders at The Hague and refer them back to their home country.

After lavish celebrations to mark its 50th anniversary on Saturday, the 54-member African Union was set to come together to condemn International Criminal Court (ICC) trials against one of its own, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, and his vice president.

"We will be approving this morning what the ministers have proposed, definitely," AU security commissioner Ramtane Lamamra told AFP, referring to a draft resolution agreed Friday by foreign ministers.

The resolution calls for the ICC to refer back to Kenya the cases against Kenyatta and Vice President William Ruto.

Kenyatta and Ruto, elected in March, both face a crimes against humanity trials in The Hague for their alleged roles in orchestrating deadly violence after previous elections in 2007 that left 1,100 people dead.

African leaders will call for the "termination of the ICC process... jurisdictions in Kenya will have to take care of the situation," Lamamra said.

The proposal would have no legal impact on ICC proceedings if passed, but would significantly boost Kenyatta's standing on the continent.

"Heads of state will support what the ministers have proposed," Lamamra added, speaking on the sidelines of the meeting at AU headquarters in the Ethiopian capital, where leaders are expected to endorse the proposal before they close their two-day summit later Monday.

Leaders have also been discussing conflict on the continent, including in volatile eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, Islamist threats in Somalia, Mali and the Sahel region, and wider global security concerns.

"African security is inextricably linked to international security," Lamamra said.

Today's AU is the successor of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), established in 1963 in the heady days when independence from colonial rule was sweeping the continent.

The move against the ICC would be first time the pan-African body has moved formally against the international court, even though Kenyatta is the second African leader to face trial, after genocide charges were brought against Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir.

Rwandan President Paul Kagame, in a speech to the AU, said that while tackling impunity was "an important step toward sustainable peace and security", the ICC is biased.

"International criminal justice needs to be free of political interference and to uphold the principle of sovereign equality of states, an objective Rwanda believes the ICC has completely failed to accomplish," he said in a speech.

Many African leaders, as well as the AU as a body, have claimed the ICC unfairly targets Africans, while ignoring war crimes suspects in other parts of the world.

However, several of the African cases at the ICC were brought to trial at the request of the countries themselves, including from Uganda, DR Congo, Central African Republic and Mali.

The Kenyan cases moved to the ICC after a failure to make headway in a domestic court.

Amnesty International has criticised the move, saying it is a "worrying attempt by the Kenyan authorities to avoid justice".

The rights group called on the 34 AU members who have signed the ICC's founding Rome Statute -- including Kenya -- to "protect the international justice mechanism they have committed to".

Both Kenyatta and Ruto deny the charges and have agreed to cooperate fully with the ICC.

Lamamra said Africa remains committed to justice on the continent.

"Africa is committed to fighting impunity, but fighting impunity is not exclusive through the ICC," he said.

Despite optimistic rhetoric at Saturday's anniversary celebrations praising the spirit of pan-Africanism, the bloc is riven with divisions.

Splits revealed by the 2011 conflict in Libya -- when members squabbled between those wanting to recognise rebels and those backing leader Moamer Kadhafi -- showed its disunity and lack of global clout.

Kadhafi's death also stripped the AU of a major source of funding, and diplomats say the leaders have also been discussing ways to find backers for the cash-strapped body.

bur-pjm/jhb

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130527/africa-closes-ranks-condemn-icc-kenya-cases