African leaders have passed a resolution urging the International Criminal Court to refer back to Kenya the crimes-against-humanity cases against the country’s top leaders, according to a senior African Union official.
Ramtane Lamamra, AU’s security commissioner, said earlier the resolution would be passed on Monday as the continental bloc continued with activities to mark its golden jubilee.
“We will be approving this morning what the ministers have proposed, definitely,” Lamamra told the AFP news agency, referring to a draft agreed on Friday by foreign ministers.
The resolution calls for the ICC to refer back to Kenya the cases against recently elected President Uhuru Kenyatta and Vice President William Ruto.
Kenyatta and Ruto, elected in March, both face trial in The Hague for their alleged roles in orchestrating deadly violence after the in 2007 election which left 1,100 people dead.
Leaders will call for the “termination of the ICC process … jurisdictions in Kenya will have to take care of the situation”. Lamamra said.
“Heads of state will support what the ministers have proposed.”
Lamamra was speaking on the sidelines of the AU summit in the Ethiopian capital.
The proposal would have no legal impact on ICC proceedings if passed, but would significantly boost Kenyatta’s standing.
It would be the first time the pan-African body has moved formally against the ICC, even though Kenyatta is the second African leader to face trial, after genocide charges were brought against his Sudanese counterpart, Omar al-Bashir.
Amnesty International, the UK-based human-rights campaigner, has criticised the move, saying it is a “worrying attempt by the Kenyan authorities to avoid justice”.
Amnesty International called on the 34 AU members who have signed the ICC’s founding Rome Statute – including Kenya – to “protect the international justice mechanism they have committed to”.
Both Kenyatta and Ruto deny the charges and have agreed to cooperate fully with the ICC.
Kenyatta’s trial is due to open on July 9, while a date for Ruto’s trial is expected to be set later this month.
However, Lamamra said Africa remained committed to justice on the continent.
“Africa is committed to fighting impunity, but fighting impunity is not exclusive through the ICC,” he said.
Many African leaders, as well as the AU as a body, have claimed the ICC unfairly targets Africans, while ignoring war crimes suspects in other parts of the world.
Violence erupted following the disputed 2007 election in Kenya, shattering the country’s image as a beacon of regional stability.
What began as political riots quickly turned into ethnic killings and reprisal attacks, plunging Kenya into its worst wave of violence since independence in 1963.