African states threaten to leave ICC

Sunday April 10 2011

A past session of the African Union Summit of Heads of States in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa. The frosty relationship between the African Union and the ICC started when chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo, issued an arrest warrant for Sudan’s President Omar al Bashir last July. Photo/FILE

A past session of the African Union Summit of Heads of States in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa. The frosty relationship between the African Union and the ICC started when chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo, issued an arrest warrant for Sudan’s President Omar al Bashir last July. Photo/FILE 

By WALTER MENYA [email protected]

That the relationship of the African Union and the International Criminal Court has hit the rocks is not in doubt.

The Union has stated that it would consider withdrawing from the Rome Statute en masse should Kenya’s request for deferral of the post-election violence cases at the ICC fail.

As of October 12, 2010, 114 countries were state parties to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

Of these, 31 are African States, 15 are Asian states, 18 are from Eastern Europe, 25 are Latin American and Caribbean, and 25 are from Western European and elsewhere.

Thus, African countries constitute the majority based on continental figures.

The frosty relationship between the African Union and the ICC started when chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo, issued an arrest warrant for Sudan’s President Omar al Bashir last July, accusing him of war crimes in Darfur.

At the time, several African countries, including Comoros, Djibouti, and Senegal, called on African states to withdraw en masse from the statute in protest, saying the court targeted Africa.

To date, the AU has resisted calls to cooperate with the Court in arresting President al Bashir.

The ICC’s active cases all target crimes against humanity committed in the African states of Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, Uganda and Kenya.

The Security Council has also authorised the prosecutor to conduct preliminary investigations in Libya while Côte d’Ivoire could be another pick for the ICC.

Mr Jean Ping, the chairman of the African Union Commission, says the ICC has double standards.

At the 2010 AU Summit that approved Kenya’s deferral request, Mr Ping said: “We Africans and the African Union are not against the International Criminal Court. That should be clear. But, we are against Ocampo who is rendering justice with double standards.”

Recently at the conclusion of the second leg of the shuttle diplomacy, Nairobi Metropolitan Minister Njeru Githae insinuated that Kenya would propose to the AU to consider setting up a continental criminal court.

The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (Igad), a building block of the AU, has also dropped the hint of mass withdrawal.