ADDIS ABABA, May 27 – African leaders passed a resolution Monday urging the International Criminal Court to refer back to Kenya the crimes against humanity cases against the country’s top leaders, a senior African Union official said.
“We will be approving this morning what the ministers have proposed, definitely,” AU security commissioner Ramtane Lamamra told AFP, referring to a draft agreed Friday by foreign ministers.
The resolution calls for the ICC to refer back to Kenya the cases against recently-elected President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto.
Leaders called for the “termination of the ICC process… jurisdictions in Kenya will have to take care of the situation,” Lamamra said.
“Heads of state will support what the ministers have proposed,” Lamamra added, speaking on the sidelines of the AU summit in the Ethiopian capital, where leaders are expected to endorse the proposal before they close their meeting later Monday.
Kenyatta and Ruto, elected in March, both face trial in The Hague for their alleged roles in orchestrating deadly violence after previous elections in 2007 that left 1,100 people dead.
The proposal would have no legal impact on ICC proceedings if passed, but would significantly boost Kenyatta’s standing on the continent.
It would be the first time the pan-African body has moved formally against the ICC, even though Kenyatta is the second African leader to face trial, after genocide charges were brought against Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir.
Amnesty International has criticised the move saying it is a “worrying attempt by the Kenyan authorities to avoid justice”.
The rights group called on the 34 AU members who have signed the ICC’s founding Rome Statute — including Kenya — to “protect the international justice mechanism they have committed to”.
Both Kenyatta and Ruto deny the charges and have agreed to cooperate fully with the ICC.
Kenyatta’s trial is due to open on July 9, while a date for Ruto’s trial is expected to be set later this month.
However, Lamamra said Africa remains committed to justice on the continent.
“Africa is committed to fighting impunity, but fighting impunity is not exclusive through the ICC,” he said.
Many African leaders, as well as the AU as a body, have claimed the ICC unfairly targets Africans, while ignoring war crimes suspects in other parts of the world.
Violence erupted following the disputed 2007 election in Kenya, shattering the country’s image as a beacon of regional stability.
What began as political riots quickly turned into ethnic killings and reprisal attacks, plunging Kenya into its worst wave of violence since independence in 1963.