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Africa

African Union asks ICC to transfer Kenyatta case

© afp

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2013-05-27

The African Union on Monday asked the ICC to withdraw crimes against humanity charges against Kenya's leaders and transfer the cases to Kenyan courts. President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) and his deputy are both facing ICC charges.

The African Union on Monday accused the International Criminal Court of targeting Africans on the basis of race, demanding it end proceedings against Kenya's president who is accused of crimes against humanity.

"African leaders have come to a consensus that the (ICC) process that has been conducted in Africa has a flaw," AU chair and Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn said at the close of a two-day summit of the 54-member bloc.

"The intention was to avoid any kind of impunity... but now the process has degenerated to some kind of race hunting,"he told reporters.

A resolution urged the ICC to stop upcoming trials of President Uhuru Kenyatta and Vice President William Ruto, who face crimes against humanity trials for their alleged roles in orchestrating deadly violence after 2007 elections that left more than 1,000 people dead.

Many African leaders, as well as the AU as a body, have claimed the ICC unfairly targets Africans, while ignoring war crimes suspects in other parts of the world.

The Hague-based court, set up in 2002 to try the world's worst crimes, maintained it was not targeting Africa as a continent, pointing out that four out of eight situations under investigation in Africa were referred to the court by the countries themselves.

In addition, 34 African nations had ratified the ICC's founding statute, it added.

ICC spokesman Fadi El Abdallah told AFP the court "will not be reacting" to the AU resolution.

The resolution has no legal impact on ICC proceedings but significantly boosts Kenyatta's standing on the continent.

The Kenyan cases moved to the ICC after a failure to make headway in a domestic court, but the AU argued that reforms in Kenya including a new constitution and revamped judiciary meant it should now return to a domestic process.

"Now that Kenya has reformed its court... things should be left to the court," AU Commission chief Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said, calling the ICC "a court of last resort."

It is the first time the pan-African body has formally moved against the international court, even though Kenyatta is the second African leader to face trial, after genocide charges were brought against Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir.

The resolution follows lavish celebrations to mark the AU's 50th anniversary on Saturday, in which leaders praised the spirit of pan-Africanism despite frequent disagreements between the bloc's members.

The ICC resolution was adopted by consensus, with only Botswana and The Gambia -- homeland of the ICC's chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda -- expressing "reservations" about the move, AU security commissioner Ramtane Lamamra said.

It has sparked criticism from rights groups, with Amnesty International calling it a "worrying attempt by the Kenyan authorities to avoid justice".

Human Rights Watch warned that calls for domestic trials "should fool no one as to the prospects for meaningful justice in Kenya" and that efforts should continue "to press Kenya to put politics aside and let the ICC's cases run their independent judicial course."

Both Kenyatta and Ruto deny the charges and have agreed to cooperate fully with the ICC.

At the summit meeting, leaders also tried to tackle conflict on the continent, including in volatile eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, tensions between Sudan and South Sudan, Islamist threats in Somalia, Mali and the Sahel region, and wider global security concerns.

The AU also announced it would set up an emergency military force to rapidly quell conflict on the continent, amid frustration that a planned peacekeeping force was still not operational after a decade.

The AU's "African Standby Brigade" to intervene in sudden crises -- a proposed force of 32,500 troops and civilians drawn from five regions of the continent -- has made little headway since preparations for it started a decade ago.

South Africa, Uganda and Ethiopia have pledged troops to the proposed force, an interim measure until the main brigade is completed, Lamamra said.

Funding issues were also addressed, after the death of key backer Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi in 2011, with Hailemariam saying members of the cash-strapped body should "be prepared to make sacrifices".

(AFP)

Date created : 2013-05-27

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