The African Union (AU) feud with the International Criminal Court (ICC) is providing Robert Mugabe with another shield from possible prosecution for crimes against humanity.
The feud was on display this weekend, when a special summit was called by the AU to discuss Africa's continued relationship with the Hague based court. Some AU members have accused the court of bias towards the continent's leadership, with the current prosecution of Kenya's leadership for crimes against humanity, and the outstanding warrant of arrest for Sudan's Omar al-Bashir for war crimes in Darfur.
A mass walkout of the ICC, which was feared would happen at the special summit in Ethiopia, never happened. Instead, African leaders proposed that sitting heads of state across the continent be granted a blanket amnesty from ICC prosecution.
This proposal has been criticised for seeking to protect a handful of Africa's most powerful people, and allowing widespread impunity to continue. Such a move would shield not only Kenya's leadership and al-Bashir, but also Mugabe from answering for serious crimes.
Zimbabwe has openly backed calls for Africa's withdrawal from the court, which has been described as 'unsurprising' by analysts and observers. Clifford Mashiri, a UK based political analyst and former Zimbabwean diplomat, told SW Radio Africa that: "The Zimbabwean leaders are afraid of being sent to the ICC for their crimes. This is why they rigged the elections, to remain in power and ensure there is no government in place that would help refer these individuals to the ICC," Mashiri said.
Zimbabwe is not a member of the ICC after refusing to ratify the Rome Statute, which is the treaty that established the court. The court was set up specifically to deal with genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and crimes of aggression, if those atrocities are committed in the 122 countries that signed the Rome Statute.
The exception to this rule however is that the ICC may have jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute the crimes if its jurisdiction is authorised by the United Nations (UN) Security Council. This precedent has previously been set with the Darfur war -crimes case, which saw the UN Security Council refer the case to the court, resulting in the arrest warrant for al-Bashir.
This would in theory pave the way for a similar situation in Zimbabwe, after the Gukurahundi was officially declared a genocide in 2010. This development means the ICC could prosecute Mugabe, if the matter was referred by the UN Security Council.
But Mashiri said that the AU was "putting up a wall against victims of violence and crimes against humanity," by seeking to protect heads of state from ICC prosecution.
"We know that the AU is open to manipulation by Mugabe, who is treated as a forefather of pan-Africanism. They are sympathetic to Mugabe. So it is disturbing that victims are violence appear to be marginalised by the AU," Mashiri said.