President Jonathan and other African leaders are currently meeting in Ethiopia.
The African Union on Saturday accused the International Criminal Court, ICC, of double standards in its investigation and prosecution of war crimes. The allegations came at an Extra-Ordinary Summit of Heads of States and Government of African Union, currently holding in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan is among several African leaders currently meeting at the summit.
The emergency summit was convened, mainly to deliberate on the issue of the trial of Kenya’s President, Uhuru Kenyatta, and his Deputy, William Ruto, who are facing charges of crimes against humanity for allegedly helping to orchestrate the post-election violence in 2007-08 that killed more than 1,000 people in Kenya, Mr. Kenyatta, who was elected president earlier in the year, faces trial in November. The Kenyan government is seeking to withdraw from the ICC; and if it does, it will be the first nation to do so.
Kenya had also planned to ask African countries to withdraw from the ICC, but decided against it based on opposition to the plan by many some African countries including Senegal and Nigeria. The African leaders are expected to ask for immunity from the ICC for serving African leaders.The Rome Statute which established the ICC states that a “state party” may withdraw with written notification to the UN’s secretary general; withdrawal takes effect one year later.
But a withdrawal does not affect a state’s obligation to cooperate with criminal investigations and proceedings already underway. However the African Union, AU, said it has engaged the ICC on a possible deferral of the trial, and that its demands have not been positively considered.
Speaking at the opening session of the summit on Saturday, the Ethiopian Prime Minister, Hailemariam Dessalegn, and Chairperson of the AU accused the ICC as well as the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) of double dealing and biased judgements, mostly in cases relating to Africa. He noted that 34 of its member states had joined the ICC convinced that the organization would promote the cause of Justice with a sense of impartiality and fairness.
“On a number of occasions, we have dealt with the issue of the ICC and expressed our serious concern over the manner in which the ICC has been responding to Africa’s considerations. The double standard that both the United Nation’s Security Council and both the ICC have displaced in regards to AU’s request for deferral for prosecution in a number of cases has been particularly worrisome.
“While similar request by other entities were positively received even under controversial circumstances, neither a ICC nor the UNSC have heeded the repeated requested that we have made on a number of cases relating to Africa over the last seven years. It is indeed very unfortunate that the court has continued to create a complete disregard of the concerns that we expressed. The trend however, is no doubt worrisome and the unfair treatment that we have been subjected to by the ICC is completely unacceptable,” he said.
The AU Chairperson said while Africa will never support impunity of leaders who wilfully murder their own people, “it is regrettable that the numerous proposal within framework of the Rome statute to address these issues have been totally ignored. Past experiences in our continent and elsewhere amply demonstrate the need to balance justice and reconciliation in complex conflict situations. It is in light of this fact that we have been insisting on the importance of finding home grown solutions to some of the intractable conflicts in our continent”.
With regard to the Sudanese President, Omar Hassan Al-Bashir, the AU Chairperson said, he has demonstrated necessary political leadership and commitment in resolving the Darfur issue as well as addressing outstanding issues within South Sudan. He added that as the country prepares for its general election in 2015, the international community should give the processes employed by AU a chance and not be seen in any way to undermine them.
On the other hand, he stated that Kenya had come a long way in addressing the 2007 post-election violence, the adoption of new constitution, the reform of the judiciary and the holding of successful legislative and presidential elections have certainly opened a new chapter in the country’s political dispensation. He said the satisfactory measures taken to reform the criminal justice system in Kenya was also meant to dispel the fears of some in the international community, that they might not be as impartial as ICC would have seen it necessary.
He added that Messrs Kenyatta and Ruto have played a critical role in reconciling the different communities and creating a peaceful condition for the smooth conduct of the recently held elections. “They have also taken practical measures to assist those who were affected by the post-election violence and restore their normal life. “It is in recognition of these encouraging developments that we have been requesting for the reconciliation process to be given a chance.
But ICC’s response flies full in the face of realities. There is no reason why the ICC finds it difficult to accept this legitimate request. Ultimately, what we all aspire to see if for Kenyans to reconcile and live in peace and harmony. But then again, this is not just about Kenya but definitely about the entire Africa. “It should be underscored that our goal is not and should not be a crusade against the ICC, but a solemn call for the organization to take Africa’s concerns seriously,’ he said.