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AU to urge UN to defer cases against Kenya, Sudan leaders

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

The African Union will urge the UN to suspend International Criminal Court (ICC) cases pending against Kenyan and Sudanese leaders while they are in office, Ethiopia's foreign minister said Friday.

The African Union (AU) agrees that "sitting heads of state and government should not be prosecuted while in office," Ethiopian Foreign Minister Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

"We have resolved to speak with one voice to make sure that our concerns are heard loud and clear," he added.

AU foreign ministers meeting in Addis Ababa agreed to set up a contact group "to sensitize members of the UN Security Council ... on the need to support the request for deferral of proceedings" against Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, his deputy William Ruto and Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, Tedros said.

The meeting comes amid mounting tensions between The Hague-based ICC and Kenya, whose president and vice-president have been charged with crimes against humanity for allegedly masterminding a vicious campaign of ethnic violence after disputed 2007 elections.

The ICC has issued arrest warrants for Bashir on 10 counts of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide in the Darfur conflict.

Several nations in the 54-member AU, whose rotating presidency is currently held by Ethiopia, have accused the ICC of singling out Africans for prosecution, and have demanded that the court drop the proceedings against Kenya's leadership.

"The manner in which the Court has been operating, particularly its unfair treatment of Africa and Africans, leaves much to be desired," Ethiopian Foreign Minister Tedros told ministers and delegates at the opening of the two-day meeting on Friday.

The African foreign ministers' resolution will be put to the heads of state on Saturday.

Under Article 16 of the international court's founding treaty, the UN Security Council can call on the ICC to suspend any case for a year at a time.

The African Union's draft document requests that the indictments against the Kenyan and Sudanese leaders be deferred "to enable them carry out their constitutional obligations".

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/131011/au-urge-un-defer-cases-against-kenya-sudan-leaders-0