ADDIS ABABA, (Reuters) – African nations have agreed that sitting heads of state should not be put on trial by the International Criminal Court, where Kenya’s leaders are in the dock, Ethiopian Foreign Minister Tedros Adhanom said at a ministerial meeting.
The ministers also called for deferring the cases of Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy, William Ruto, the minister said after a meeting to discuss Africa’s relations with the court in The Hague.
The two men are charged with orchestrating a killing spree after the disputed 2007 election, charges they both deny.
Frustration with the ICC has been growing in Africa because the court has convicted only one man, an African warlord, and all others it has charged are also Africans.
But the ministers, whose meeting began yesterday and ended after midnight, did not call for a mass walkout from the court’s jurisdiction by the 34 signatories on the continent, an idea that was suggested by some officials ahead of the talks but which drew limited support.
“We have rejected the double standard that the ICC is applying in dispensing international justice,” Adhanom told the delegates, adding that trying Kenya’s president and his deputy infringed on that nation’s sovereignty.
“Therefore, we underscored that sitting heads of state and governments should not be prosecuted while in office,” he said.
The recommendations will be put today to African leaders, who are expected to adopt them at the summit.
The minister said a group led by the chair of the 54-member African Union, currently Ethiopia, with representatives from the continent’s five regions would press the U.N. Security Council to defer the court proceedings against the Kenyan leadership and Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir.
While the Kenyan politicians have cooperated with the court, Bashir has rejected the ICC’s charges of war crimes and genocide, and is now subject to an arrest warrant.
The draft resolution simply referred to a deferral. Adhanom told Reuters the request was for a one-year postponement.
Ruto’s case began last month and Kenyatta’s trial starts in November. Both are accused of crimes against humanity.