12 October 2013

African Leaders Tell ICC Not to Try Heads of State

African leaders gathered for a special summit on Saturday to urge the International Criminal Court not to prosecute sitting heads of state and defer the crimes against humanity trials of Kenya's leadership.

The meeting at the African Union headquarters comes amid mounting tensions with the ICC, which has been accused of acting like a neo-colonialist institution that has singled out Africans since being set up as the world's first permanent court to try genocide and war crimes.

Ethiopian Foreign Minister Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told ministers and delegates at the opening of the two-day meeting on Friday that the Hague-based court was guilty of "unfair treatment of Africa and Africans".

"The court has transformed itself into a political instrument. This unfair and unjust treatment is totally unacceptable," he said of the ICC, which is currently handling eight cases -- all of them against Africans.

The Ethiopian foreign minister said heads of state from the 54-member AU would urge the UN to suspend the ICC cases pending against Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, his deputy William Ruto as well as the case against Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir.

The African Union (AU) had agreed that "sitting heads of state and government should not be prosecuted while in office," he said. 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.

Kenyatta and Ruti have been charged with crimes against humanity for allegedly masterminding a vicious campaign of ethnic violence after disputed 2007 elections. Now allies and elected this year on a platform of national reconciliation, they argue the case is violating Kenyan sovereignty and hampering their running of the country.

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