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African Union Says Kenyan President Should Not Attend ICC Tribunal

posted 12 Oct 2013, 12:03 by Sam Mbale   [ updated 12 Oct 2013, 12:04 ]

African leaders agree that Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta should not attend his trial at theInternational Criminal Court if the U.N. Security Council did not agree to delay the proceedings.

ADDIS ABABA, ETHIOPIA (OCTOBER 12, 2013)(REUTERS) - African leaders said on Saturday (October 12) that the trial in November of Kenya's president at the International Criminal Court (ICC) should be delayed, but if it were not then he should not attend.

The summit was called to discuss Africa's relations with the court, which has provoked mounting frustration among Africans who accuse it of unfairly targeting people on the continent and largely ignoring crimes committed elsewhere in the world.

Kenyatta and Ruto face charges of crimes against humanity related to the violence that followedKenya's 2007 election, in which 1,200 people died. Both deny the charges. Kenyatta's trial starts on Nov. 12, while Ruto's began last month.

Africans say the court has "double standards," pointing out that it has until now only convicted one man, an African warlord, and has only charged Africans.

Ethiopian Prime Minister said African leaders had unanimously agreed that no head of state or government and or anyone acting in that capacity shall be required to appear before any international court or tribunal.

"We have resolved that no serving AU head of state or government or anybody acting or entitled to act in such capacity shall be required to appear before any international court or tribunal during his term of office," said Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn while reading the resolution.

An African Union summit called for the trial to be deferred under article 16 of the court's RomeStatute, which allows for a delay of a year subject to renewal.

"We have also agreed that Kenya should send a letter to the UN Security council requesting for deferral in conformity with article 16 of the Rome statute of the presiding against the president and the deputy president of Kenya that would be endorsed by all African state parties," Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn added.

This African decision challenges the Hague-based court in its most high-profile case to date - its first trial of a sitting president.

Such a rule would also exempt Ruto, who is required to stand in on behalf of Kenyatta when he is out of the country.

Until now, both men have said they would cooperate to clear their names and both have attended hearings.

Rights groups had urged African nations not to turn their backs on the court, which they say is vital to ending what they see as a culture of impunity in African politics.