African Union mediator for the Sudans, former President Thabo Mbeki, with Presidents Silva Kiir of the Republic of South Sudan and Omar Hassan al-Bashir of the Republic of Sudan. The two sides may meet at the UNSC., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
By FRANCE 24 the 27/05/2013 - 13:18
As African leaders at an AU summit Monday discuss a proposal urging the International Criminal Court (ICC) to withdraw crimes of humanity cases against Kenya’s top leaders, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir told FRANCE 24 he supported the move.
African leaders meeting at an African Union (AU) summit on Monday are discussing a Kenyan proposal that the International Criminal Court (ICC) refer its cases against the country’s president and vice president back to the East African nation.
The proposal to withdraw the ICC cases against Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and his vice president, William Ruto, was drafted by AU foreign ministers last week.
Kenyatta and Ruto, elected with a slim majority in March, face trial at The Hague for their alleged roles in orchestrating the deadly violence that followed the 2007 poll.
The proposal, which is expected to pass later Monday, would have no legal impact on the ICC proceedings but is viewed as a symbolic gesture across the continent.
Following an election campaign that effectively cast the ICC case as a sign of Western interference in Kenya’s domestic affairs, Kenyatta’s administration has been pushing for the case to be dropped at various international forums – including an appeal last week to the UN Security Council to “terminate” the case.
According to diplomats who attended the private briefing, the Kenyan delegation got a chilly response from UN Security Council members. But on the continent, Kenya’s attempts to portray the ICC case as a sign of the court’s bias and a vestige of perceived colonial slights enjoys the support of most African leaders.
In an interview with FRANCE 24 in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa over the weekend, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who faces genocide and crimes against humanity charges at the ICC, echoed the sentiment.
“In Africa, the International Criminal Court is widely seen as the new face colonisation aimed at terrorizing African leaders,” said Bashir. “If you look at all the people who have been indicted by the International Criminal Court, you can see they're all Africans, especially those who oppose and the reject the pressure of western politics.”
‘A creature of the West’
The Hague-based court’s 18 cases are all from seven African countries – Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, Kenya, Central African Republic, Ivory Coast and Libya. Four of the seven African states – including Kenya – asked the court to investigate because they were unable to try senior figures in their countries.
Under the rules, countries that are not signatories to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court must be referred to the court by the UN Security Council.
So far, the ICC’s only successful prosecution has been that of Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga – a fact that has been carefully noted by African leaders and ordinary Africans.
In an attempt to broaden the gamut of ICC investigations, the office of the chief prosecutor is currently conducting preliminary examinations in Afghanistan, Colombia, Gaza, Georgia, Honduras and North Korea, among other regions.
Critics of the ICC’s Africa bias also hope that last year’s appointment of Gambian lawyer Fatou Bensouda as chief prosecutor will help broaden the scope of the court.
But these attempts have failed to reassure African leaders – or ordinary Africans, according to FRANCE 24’s Duncan Woodside, reporting from Addis Ababa.
“It’s not only Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir who has concerns about the International Criminal Court – obviously he has his own vested interest in opposing the ICC. But there’s a widespread feeling across the continent that the ICC is effectively a creature of the West and is being used to unfairly target African leaders and African people,” said Woodside.
The perceived unfairness has allowed Bashir to travel to countries such as Ethiopia, Eritrea, Zimbabwe, Egypt and Libya despite a 2009 international arrest warrant against him.
According to Woodside, the AU’s move to pass a proposal on the Kenyatta case comes as no surprise.
ICC prosecutor Bensouda has nevertheless maintained that she will not drop the cases against Kenyatta and Ruto, despite the recent withdrawal of witness statements.
Earlier this year, Bensouda was forced to abandon a case against former senior Kenyan official Francis Mathura after a crucial witness withdrew his statement amid criticisms over the ICC’s failure to provide witness protection.
Bensouda has however expressed confidence in the ICC’s witness protection mechanism and has vowed to carry on with the cases, which are set to start in July.