African leaders on Saturday called for a halt to the International Criminal Court’s prosecution of the presidents of Kenya and Sudan, amid complaints that the court has only ever pursued Africans.
An African Union summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, discussed Africa’s relations with the court, which has convicted just one man, a Congolese warlord, and has charged only Africans, according to the Toronto Star.
African Union officials said the U.N. Security Council should defer the trial of Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta under Article 16 of the court’s Rome statute, which allows for an initial delay of a year, or they would seek an alternative means of postponement.
“If that is not met, what the summit decided is that President Kenyatta should not appear until the request we have made is actually answered,” Ethiopian Foreign Minister Tedros Adhanom told journalists in Addis Ababa after the meeting.
Kenyatta and his deputy, William Ruto, have been accused of orchestrating large-scale violence after a disputed 2007 election, charges they deny. Kenyatta’s trial is due to start on Nov. 12, while Ruto’s began last month.
The African Union’s stance challenges the Hague-based court in its most high-profile case to date – its first trial of a sitting president.
Without an agreed legal delay in court proceedings, any decision by Kenyatta not to attend could prompt an arrest warrant, a step Western nations have wanted to avoid as it would complicate already tricky relations with a regional ally.
ICC a Toy of Declining Imperial Powers
According to Capital FM Kenya, Kenyatta has presented a case for a mass walkout from the Rome statute, saying the global court has become a toy of imperial Western powers.
Addressing fellow heads of state Saturday, President Kenyatta said powerful Western countries – which were themselves not party to the statute – had turned the court to a tool for manipulation and neo-colonialism of African states.
“The ICC has been reduced into a painfully farcical pantomime, a travesty that adds insult to the injury of victims. It stopped being the home of justice the day it became the toy of declining imperial powers,” said Kenyatta.
He added that the ICC had become contemptuous of the African Union, citing the numerous applications by the continental body, which have not won favor with the court.
“When a civil society organization wrote a letter bearing sensational and prejudicial fabrications, the court took urgent and substantial decisions based on it.
“Before the ICC, African sovereign nations’ resolutions are nothing compared with the opinions of civil society activists.
“The AU is the bastion of African sovereignty, and the vanguard of our unity. Yet the ICC deems it altogether unworthy of the minutest consideration,” said Kenyatta said.
He called on the African leaders at the summit to make a strong statement to the world about their displeasure with the ICC.
“Africa is not a third-rate territory of second-class peoples. We are not a project, or experiment of outsiders,” he said.
“We want to see the ICC as fair and even-handed throughout the world, but what can we do when everyone but Africa is exempt from accountability?”