African Union: stand against ICC trials of presidents

The African Union (AU) called Feb. 1 for African countries to "speak with one voice" against the trials of sitting heads of state in the International Criminal Court (ICC). The statement comes in relation to the trial of two current heads of the Kenyan government, Kenya's president, Uhuru Kenyatta, and his deputy, William Ruto. The AU asked the UN Security Council to postpone the trials while the Kenyan leaders were still in power, but the resolution failed to get the required nine votes, making it the first resolution in decades to fail without a veto from one of the permanent members.

Further, the statement emphasized the need for a united AU position for the proposed amendments to Articles 16 and 27 of the Rome Statute (PDF) which governs the ICC's jurisdiction. According to reports, only Botswana is opposed to the current AU position. The amendments will be considered by the Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute during upcoming sessions. [Amendment of Article 16 will give the UN General Assembly power to defer cases if the Security Council fails to do so, while amending Article 27 will secure leaders immunity from the ICC while in office. (The Star, Nairobi, Jan. 31)]

The AU's position has sparked much controversy and criticism. In October Amnesty International (AI) spoke out against the AU's stance, calling it an attempt at "political interference in independent judicial proceedings." The initial declaration was given just days before as part of a protest against the trials of the Kenyan leaders, which have caused their own set of controversies. Kenya's National Assembly voted in September to withdraw from the ICC and is expected to take action to this end soon. In July the ICC rejected  a request by Kenyan officials to change the forum of the trials to Kenya or Tanzania. In May, African foreign ministers requested that Kenyatta and Ruto be tried in Kenya.

From Jurist, Feb. 1. Used with permission.

The ICC also has an outstanding warrant for Sudan's President Omar Bashir.


  1. ICC dismisses case against Kenya deputy president

    The International Criminal Court (ICC) on April 5 threw out charges against Kenyan Deputy President William Ruto. Ruto and Joshua Sang were accused of supporting murderous inter-ethnic violence in Kenya after the 2007 election, leading to more than 1,200 deaths. Ruto and Sang have denied the murder, deportation and persecution charges. Judges from the ICC halted the trial, ruling that prosecutors failed to provide enough incriminating evidence. The judges ultimately were split on whether to acquit, declare a mistrial or continue with the case. The case faced constant setbacks. In February the ICC barred the use of recanted testimony after key witnesses changed their statements. The prosecution alleged these changes were due to intimidation and bribery. The absence of an acquittal opens up Ruto and Sang for new charges from the ICC in the future. (Jurist)

  2. Kenyan lawyer on trial at ICC found dead

    Paul Gicheru, a Kenyan lawyer on trial at the International Criminal Court, was found dead at his home in a suburb of Nairobi, his family and police said. The ICC charged Gicheru with witness tampering in a case linked to newly-elected Kenyan President William Ruto. The Kenyan government has stepped in to investigate the cause of Gicheru’s death. (Jurist)