Saturday, October 12, 2013

African leaders accuse ICC of bias, review ties with court -

By Faith Karimi, CNN
October 12, 2013 -- Updated 0657 GMT (1457 HKT)
  • Some African leaders say the international court unfairly targets the continent
  • Others are pressing for a withdrawal from its jurisdiction
  • Rights group say the court is crucial in ensuring justice for everyone
  • A total of 34 African countries are ICC members
(CNN) -- African Union leaders meet in Ethiopia for a second day Saturday to discuss the continent's relationship with the International Criminal Court amid accusations of bias.
Top officials from the 54-member body gathered in the capital of Addis Ababa to address growing resentment against the court.
Kenya is at the forefront of the criticism as its deputy president undergoes trial for alleged crimes against humanity at the court based in The Hague, Netherlands.
Presidents on trial
Others including Ethiopia, Sudan and Uganda have joined in, accusing the court of targeting their leaders.
"African countries form the largest constituency of the Rome Statute and I think all of them have expressed issues that they want addressed at one time or another," said Amina Mohamed, the Kenyan minister for foreign affairs. "The summit will present that opportunity."
The trial for Kenyan Deputy President William Ruto is under way while his boss, President Uhuru Kenyatta, is scheduled to appear in court next month on the same charges.
Both have denied orchestrating attacks that left more than 1,000 people dead in Kenya after a disputed presidential election six years ago.
The International Criminal Court was set up in 2002 to prosecute claims of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. Rights groups say the court is crucial in ending impunity in African politics.
Kenya's previous administration reneged on a deal to set up a special tribunal to try suspects in the postelection violence, prompting the international court to step in.
It is the second African nation after Sudan to have a sitting president facing charges at the International Criminal Court.
Accusations of double standards
The court has consistently said it is not a substitute for domestic criminal justice systems, and only intervenes if the national judicial system is either unwilling or unable to carry out justice.
But some leaders have accused it of double standards.
"The International Criminal Court's way of operating particularly its unfair treatment of Africa and Africans leaves much to be desired," Tedros Adhanom, Ethiopia's foreign affairs minister, said in a statement. "The search for justice should be pursued in a way that does not impede or jeopardize efforts aimed at promoting lasting peace."
So far, all cases before the court are against Africans in eight countries, including Ivory Coast , Uganda, Sudan and Mali.
Some of the cases were handed over by their respective African governments, including Ivory Coast; others were referred to the court by the U.N. Security Council.
Rights groups: Court ensures justice for all
Rights groups are urging African leaders to support the court, saying it is crucial in ensuring justice for everyone.
"African countries played an active role at the negotiations to establish the court, and 34 African countries -- a majority of African Union members -- are ICC members," Human Rights Watch said in a statement.
"Any withdrawal from the ICC would send the wrong signal about Africa's commitment to protect and promote human rights and to reject impunity."
The Kenyan parliament voted in September to withdraw from the court's jurisdiction after repeatedly calling on it to drop the cases.
A withdrawal would take a while to implement because it involves steps such as a formal notification to the United Nations.

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