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Amnesty berates AU declaration on ICC

14 October 2013, 15:10

Nairobi - The African Union’s declaration that senior government officials should not appear before the International Criminal Court (ICC) and their call for deferral of the cases against Kenya’s leaders is deplorable, human rights group, Amnesty International, said.

The declaration was made in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia this past weekend at an Extraordinary Summit of the AU on the question of Africa’s relationship with the ICC.

“This declaration sends the wrong message, that politicians on the African continent will place their political interests above those of victims of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide,” said Tawanda Hondora, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director of Law and Policy.

The AU summit called for the deferral of the ICC trials of President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto by the UN Security Council, and set up a contact group of the AU Executive Council to take up the matter with the United Nations Security Council.

“Requesting the deferral of the trials of Kenyatta and Ruto would send a strong message that the victims of the post-election violence in Kenya don’t matter,” said Hondora.

He said Amnesty International recognised that Kenya suffered a “horrendous assault” during the attack on the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi last month, with significant loss of life and livelihoods, but this must not be used to insulate the President and his deputy from appearing before the ICC.

“Victims of the post-election violence have waited over five years to see the cogs of justice turn after Kenya failed to deliver justice and the ICC stepped in. These trials should and must go ahead. Any move by the Security Council on foot of the AU’s request to delay justice would be political interference in independent judicial proceedings,” said Hondora.

AU leaders debated calling for the withdrawal of the 34 African countries that are members of the Rome Statute of the ICC if the Kenyan cases are not dropped or deferred, but did not go that far.

Amnesty International had called on African leaders not to support such a move amid fears that states critical of the ICC would follow the example of the Kenyan Parliament which on September 5 voted to leave the Court.

 “African states played a vital role in setting up the ICC and have an unquestionable stake in producing a just, fair and effective court,” said Hondora.

– CAJ News

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