Uhuru will not appear at the ICC until our demands are met: AU

PHOTO | CORRESPONDENT President of Sudan Omar el-Bashir arrives for the AU Summit in Addis Ababa.

What you need to know:

  • President Kenyatta’s trial is scheduled to open on November 12 while Mr Ruto’s is ongoing
  • The meeting agreed that any AU member state who wants to refer cases to the ICC has the option of consulting the union

ADDIS ABABA

The African Union (AU) has opposed President Kenyatta’s trial at The Hague over charges of crimes against humanity arising from the 2007/8 post-election violence.

It has also opposed that of Deputy President William Ruto in that it resolved that no senior member of a government in power should be taken to the court during his or her time in office.

The decision by the Special AU Summit was among a raft of resolutions agreed on which will have far-reaching implications in the continent’s relations with the International Criminal Court (ICC) and its supporters in the West.

Except for Botswana, all presidents, prime ministers and representatives of government at the meeting appended their signature to the resolution that will be communicated to the United Nations Security Council and the ICC.

President Kenyatta’s trial is scheduled to open on November 12 while Mr Ruto’s is ongoing.

Reading the resolutions after a five-hour meeting at AU headquarters in Ethiopia, chairman Hailemariam Dessalegn said they were sending a strong message to the international community that it will not be business as usual with its members.

“We have sent a strong signal to the international community, and we are serious on this; we expect our position to be respected,” said Mr Dessalegn who is Ethiopia’s Prime Minister.

The resolution read: “No charges shall be commenced or continued before an international court or tribunal against a serving president or senior member of a government in power.”

This, they said, was drawn from both local and international laws which give immunity to sitting presidents and high- level government officials and provides that they can only be taken before a court of law once out of power.

SKIP TRIAL

Speaking at a press conference to explain the resolutions, Ethiopia’s Foreign Affairs minister Tedros Adhanom, who also chairs the AU Executive Council, said the Special Summit has asked President Kenyatta to skip the trial. (READ: African leaders tell ICC not to try heads of state)

Dr Adhanom explained that a list of applications have been filed by President Kenyatta’s lawyers at the ICC and should be acted on first before he is required to attend trial. “The Summit decided that President Kenyatta will not appear (before the ICC) until all applications have been met. He will not go on trial,” he said.

To cushion the Kenyan President from likely accusations of demeaning the ICC, the AU Heads of State Special Summit agreed to dispatch a team of five presidents from regions of the continent to the UN Security Council to request a deferral of the Kenyan trials.

The five will be accompanied by Mr Dessalegn and AU Commission chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.

“Five presidents, the chairman and the AU commission chairperson, will be appointed to go to the UN Security Council to request for deferral of the Kenya case before the set date of trial,” he said.

Should the UN Security Council turn down the request, they will approach the ICC seeking to have the trial date for President Kenyatta postponed to give chance to the Trial Chamber and the Appeals Chamber to rule on the pending applications.

In the event their attempts fail, they said the AU will convene another special summit where decisions to force the hand of the international community and the ICC to respect the immunity of serving presidents will be taken.

Said Dr Adhanom: “If the requests are not met, we will have another extraordinary summit during which we will make decisions. Now there is a start and we know where to go. We will use both legal and political means.”

The meeting mandated Kenya to write a letter to the ICC, and signed by all AU member states, seeking the review of its cases before The Hague. “The emerging decision by the ICC will be reviewed by the AU during a meeting at the end of next month,” said the AU chairman.

President Kenyatta attended the meeting.

THIRD OPTION

The Special Summit also resolved to use next month’s Assembly of State Parties to the Rome Statute to push for amendments to the charter to strip the ICC of high-handed powers, curtail the hand of the prosecutor and reduce the court to a third option in the event crimes against humanity have been committed in any country.

“African countries who are State Parties (to the Rome Statute) will introduce amendments to the Statute on the trial of international crimes, especially on indictment of African presidents,” said Mr Dessalegn.

Thirty-four of the 54 AU members are signatories of the Rome Statute. (READ: MPs vow to continue with plan to ditch Rome Statute)

The meeting still agreed that any AU member state who wants to refer cases to the ICC has the option of consulting the union. This was apparently reached after some member states complained about the initial mandatory requirement.

Also dropped from the resolutions was a proposal on Friday to appoint a high-level observer team to audit the wide-ranging reforms that have been carried out by Kenya to prove that the cases against the Jubilee leadership can be tried locally.

On Saturday, Dr Adhanom reminded the international community and the ICC that their approach to restoring peace and stability in Kenya was too simple to succeed. He warned that the trials of President Kenyatta and Mr Ruto would weaken the government and create fissures, which will be used by other elements, such as the terrorists who attacked the Westgate Shopping Mall, to destabilise Kenya.

He proposed that the South African model of truth and reconciliation, which was touted by President Jacob Zuma at the summit should be given a chance in Kenya.

“President Zuma has been telling us about the model. The South African problem was solved because of reconciliation. Unless this package is applied in Kenya, nothing can be achieved. To solve problems in Kenya, a simplistic approach can’t suffice.”

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