ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia — Complaining of bullying in the international justice arena, African leaders are forging ahead with plans to set up their own regional court — and give themselves immunity in the process.
The African Union (AU) accuses the Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC) of anti-African bias and racism, and plans for a home-grown mechanism are inflaming a stand-off over who deals out justice in Africa.
In a decision last month, AU leaders unanimously agreed to grant sitting heads of state and senior government officials immunity from prosecution at the African Court for Human and Peoples’ Rights, which is not expected to get off the ground for several years.
The Hague-based ICC rules that no one is protected from prosecution, but many African leaders are quick to point out that all of the ICC’s eight cases are against Africans.
Their initial enthusiasm for the international tribunal — four of the ICC’s cases were referred to it by African governments — is now wearing thin.
The ICC is pursuing, among others, Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir, indicted for crimes against humanity in war-torn Darfur, and Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy, William Ruto, who are on trial for allegedly orchestrating post-election violence in 2007-08 that left at least 1,000 people dead.