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ICC has never targeted any African country

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

The president of the International Criminal Court on Thursday said it has never targeted any African country, calling such criticism "regrettable".

"We never chased any African country, we didn't do anything in this respect, they brought their own situation to us," Korean judge Sang-Hyun Song told AFP, speaking in English.

His comments were the court's strongest response yet to accusations made by Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta at an African Union summit last week of "bias and race-hunting at the ICC".

The African Union has called on The Hague-based court to adjourn the crimes against humanity trials of Kenyatta and Kenya's Vice-President William Ruto.

But Song strongly defended the court as he spoke on the sidelines of a Bucharest conference on the ICC organised by the Romanian government.

"The ICC should not be blamed for what it did not do," he said.

Song said that out of eight conflicts, five cases were referred to the ICC by the countries' governments and two by the UN Security Council. Kenya is the only country where the ICC initiated its own investigation.

"The Kenyan parliament voted down twice the idea that was recommended by the international community that they should introduce a special criminal tribunal of their own which will handle these particular tragedies.

"Since they voted down twice, there was no option but the ICC prosecutor's intervention," Song said.

Kenyatta and Ruto face charges for allegedly masterminding a vicious campaign of ethnic violence that left at least 1,100 dead and more than 600,000 homeless after disputed 2007 elections.

Now allies and elected this year on a platform of national reconciliation, the pair argue the case is violating Kenyan sovereignty and hampering their running of the country.

But Song said: "When the ICC prosecutors initiated all these investigations, it was with the full blessing of the Kenyan government and people and international community."

The judge said the ICC's decision last week to let Libya try Moamer Kadhafi's former spy chief -- the first time the court has deferred a case to a national judiciary -- had also been met with criticism.

"Dealing with highly sensitive matters of international significance, it seems inevitable that the ICC action raises strong reaction, praise but also criticism. Judges will not take political factors into account," he said.

Aside from Kenya, the ICC is investigating cases in Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, the Central African Republic, Libya, Ivory Coast and Mali.

"The situation in Africa is a concern to all of us," said Tiina Intelmann, president of the Assembly of the States Parties to the ICC's founding Rome Statute, who also attended the Bucharest conference.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/131017/icc-has-never-targeted-any-african-country-1