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Charging Bias, African Union Members Consider Rejecting ICC Jurisdiction

The beginning last week of the International Criminal Court trial for crimes against humanity of Kenyan Deputy President William Ruto – with President Uhuru Kenyatta’s trial due in November – has stirred a growing backlash against the Hague-based court from some African governments, which see it as a biased tool of Western powers, Reuters reports.

ICC prosecutors accuse Ruto and Kenyatta of fomenting ethnic bloodletting that killed about 1,200 people after a disputed election in December 2007. They both deny this.

Kenya’s parliament voted on Sept. 5 to quit the ICC’s jurisdiction, and Nairobi is discussing with its neighbors and other governments a broad rejection of the court by Africa. This taps into African anger that the ICC has so far only prosecuted African accused – warlords, politicians and leaders – while ignoring alleged war crimes by other global powers, the report says.

Officials say suggestions are being made in the African Union for a pullout from the Hague court by the 34 African signatories to the Rome Statute that created it.

“There is a proposal in the African Union, which will likely come in January, for all AU member countries to withdraw from the ICC because the court is seen to be targeting only African leaders,” Tanzania’s government spokesman Assah Mwambene said, according to Reuters.

The International Criminal Court’s risky move

The reports that the Kenyan parliament’s recent vote to withdraw from the ICC  could cast a shadow over the the court’s global mandate to effectively prosecute those responsible for state-sponsored atrocities.

“If Kenya follows through on its threat, it could potentially trigger withdrawals by other African members of the ICC, which have long been dissatisfied with what they see as the court’s singular focus on African crimes. The ICC has opened formal investigations in eight African countries but none in other conflict zones — such as Afghanistan — that lie in its jurisdiction. Even though 34 African countries have ratified the ICC’s statute, many African leaders now see the 11-year-old court as anti-African,” the report stated.

At Kenyatta and Ruto’s inauguration in April, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, who a decade earlier referred the first case to the ICC, congratulated Kenyans for their courage in electing the two ICC indictees and chastised the West for using the court “to install leaders of their choice in Africa and eliminate the ones they do not like.”

Weeks later, Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn accused the ICC of racist bias and “hunting Africans.”

If Kenya and other African states head for the exit, it would deal a severe blow to the ICC,according to the LAtimes.

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