ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AP) — Foreign ministers from around Africa on Friday meet at the African Union headquarters in Ethiopia to discuss Africa’s relationship with the International Criminal Court.
The meeting comes a month before Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta is scheduled to appear in The Hague, Netherlands court to answer charges of crimes against humanity for his alleged role in Kenya’s 2007-08 post-election violence that killed more than 1,000 people.
Kenya’s parliament, in a nonbinding resolution, voted last month to pull out of the treaty that created the ICC, amid indications Kenyatta may not show up in The Hague for his November court case. Kenya has petitioned the court for Kenyatta to appear by video link.
There is growing criticism inside Africa that the ICC has only prosecuted Africans. On Saturday African heads of state and government meet on the ICC issue. Below are different views on Africa’s relationship to the ICC and Kenyatta’s judicial dilemma.
— “Why should the Kenyan flag be dragged into the court? Kenyatta should not leave the country. If the president goes to the ICC it’s like the whole country is being prosecuted. … Kenyatta wants to go but his advisers are telling him not to go.” — James Gakuya, Kenyan member of parliament from Kenyatta’s political party.
— “Needless to say, the work and functioning of the ICC should not be beyond scrutiny and improvement. However, considerations of withdrawal risk grave consequences for civilians in Africa, who tend to bear the brunt of serious crimes committed in violation of international law.” — Statement by 130 African and international civil society organizations.
— “Instead of promoting justice and reconciliation and contributing to peace and stability, (the ICC) has degenerated into a political instrument targeting Africa and Africans. This is totally unacceptable and that is why Africa has been expressing its serious reservation against the ICC.” — Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, in his role as chairman of African Union, as told to the U.N. General Assembly last month.
— “He has cooperated fully with the court up until now. … Are the circumstances different? Absolutely. Totally. Completely different. Before he wasn’t the head of state of the republic. … It’s going to be the first time that a sitting head is brought before any court of any time, not just here but anywhere in the world.” — Kenyan Foreign Minister Amina Mohamed, speaking on Wednesday.
— “He won’t go.” David M. Crane, professor at Syracuse University College of Law, on whether Kenyatta will report to the ICC.
— “Whatever its merits as an institution of international law, the ICC is apparently tone deaf to growing public perception in Africa … that the tribunal has it out for Africans, given that all eight of its current investigations involve Africans. … Nevertheless, I doubt that President Kenyatta will blow off the ICC entirely; that would be overplaying his hand.” — J. Peter Pham, director of the Africa Center at the Atlantic Council.
— “This trial could well sound the death knell for the ICC. … Kenya is a fully functioning democracy, more than capable of prosecuting violators of its laws. Not only have no charges been brought against Kenyatta and Ruto in Kenya, they were recently elected in a free and fair election to run the country. That should be the only verdict that matters.” — Charles Stith, director of Boston University’s African Presidential Center, former U.S. ambassador to Tanzania.
— “Impunity for politically-motivated violence has been the norm in Kenya for far too long and, so far, the Kenyan authorities have failed to undertake any domestic accountability process to address the crimes committed during the post-election violence that rocked the country in late 2007 and early 2008.” Statement by No Peace Without Justice, a group promoting human rights and international justice.
Straziuso reported from Nairobi, Kenya.