The AU Summit to deliberate on Africa’s Relationship with the ICC (Oct 07, 2013)
The African Union is due to hold an Extraordinary Session this week on Friday and Saturday (October 11 and 12) to discuss Africa’s future relationship with the International Criminal Court (ICC). The Summit of the Heads of State and Government will be preceded by a meeting of the Executive Council of foreign ministers. The ICC was established by the Rome Statute, an international treaty adopted in July 1998. It has been signed by 34 of Africa’s 54 states. The Statute provided four crimes, genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and crime of aggression under the jurisdiction of the court, with the condition that local tribunals should have prior claim on possible jurisdiction before the matter could be referred to the ICC. Since its foundation, the Court has launched eight investigations in eight situations, all in Africa: Uganda, Central African Republic, Mali, Sudan, DRC, Libya, Cote d’Ivoire and Kenya. This exclusive concentration of African cases has led to growing criticism against the ICC for what has been claimed as double standard. Last week's start of the trial of Kenyan Deputy President William Ruto for crimes against humanity after the disputed election in 2007, and with President Uhuru Kenyatta's trial due in November, has caused further concern. In May, the AU in its 21st Ordinary Session of the Assembly adopted a decision on International Jurisdiction, Justice and the International Criminal Court. The decision expressed AU’s concern on the way the ICC operates, and the misuse of indictments against African leaders. It also stated its view that ICC’s action should not “impede or jeopardize efforts aimed at promoting lasting peace”. The AU Assembly also backed a request by Kenya for the trials to be referred back to Kenya, on the ground that the ICC hearings risked raising ethnic tensions and destabilizing the country’s economy. The Court refused. Some of Kenya’s neighbors also petitioned the ICC for Kenya’s President and Deputy President not to attend the entire trial process. A Spokesman for the Kenyan Presidency said Kenya “welcomed the opportunity by African leaders to discuss what is obviously an important matter for the continent”. In his press briefing last Friday, PM Hailemariam, who is also the current chair of the AU, said that Ethiopia is not a signatory of the Rome Statute but nonetheless supports AU’s collective stand which holds the view that “the ICC is unjust and biased” against Africans.