President Paul Kagame yesterday returned from the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa where he attended an extraordinary session of Heads of State of the African Union (AU) called to discuss International Criminal Court (ICC).
During the meeting, the leaders decided to request members of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to use a provision in Article 16 of the Rome Statute governing the) and swiftly compel the court to defer the trial of African leaders.
The leaders decided to set up a contact group of its Executive Council to undertake consultations with members of the UNSC, especially its five permanent members, to discuss Africa’s relationship with the ICC and ask for the deferral of ICC trials against Kenyan and Sudanese leaders.
The AU is targeting a deadline of early November to finalise moves to compel the ICC to postpone the prosecutions in order to successfully call off the trial of Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta that the ICC has scheduled for November 12, 2013.
“The Assembly also agreed that Kenya should send a letter to the UNSC requesting the deferral, in conformity with Article 16 of the Rome statute, of the proceedings against the President and Deputy President of Kenya. This letter would be endorsed by all African States parties,” the AU said in a statement released at the end of the session yesterday.
The Chairperson of the AU, Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, has also said that African Heads of State have agreed to request postponement of the Kenyan and Sudanese trials themselves if the UNSC doesn’t respond positively to the AU request for the deferments.
With the aim of preserving peace and security, the UNSC is able to defer ICC cases for one renewable year under article 16 of the Rome Statute.
The AU has resolved that in line with principles of both national and international laws, no sitting Heads of State and governments or senior state officials shall be tried by any international court or tribunal.
“To safeguard the constitutional order, stability and integrity of member states, no serving AU Head of State or Government or anybody acting or entitled to act in such a capacity, shall be required to appear before any international court or tribunal during their term of office,” the AU has resolved.
At the AU Assembly yesterday, the leaders warned that indictments of Kenyan President and his deputy President William Ruto could undermine Kenya’s sovereignty, stability, and peace.
“While recognising the critical role Kenya is playing in the fight against terrorism, the Assembly noted that the proceedings against the President and his Deputy will distract and prevent them from fulfilling their constitutional responsibilities, including national and regional security affairs,” the leaders said.
No mass withdrawal from the ICC
Resolutions from yesterday’s AU Assembly have quashed rumours that had suggested this week that the session had been planned to prepare for a mass withdrawal of AU member states from the ICC.
The court has 34 member states from Africa on board as Parties to the Rome Statute out of 54 countries that make up Africa.
Even if criticism is rife that the court has consistently targeted Africans in its dealings, both the Ethiopian Prime Minister and the AU Commission Chairperson Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma have dismissed rumours about Africa’s plans to massively pull out of the court.
The Prime Minister has said that “our goal is not and should not be a crusade against the ICC, but a solemn call for the organisation to take Africa’s concerns seriously”.
Addressing the Assembly yesterday, Dr Zuma added “it is critical that we remain within the legal framework of the Rome Statutes”.
The UNSC has previously ignored AU’s calls for the deferment of ICC cases targeting sitting African leaders and some analysts have said that the ICC’s Assembly of State Parties is perhaps better positioned to defer the cases.