The African Union (AU) has demanded that the International Criminal Court (ICC) drop its proceedings against Kenya's recently-elected president Uhuru Kenyatta and vice president William Ruto, both of whom face trial for crimes against humanity over their alleged roles in orchestrating the violence that led to over 1,000 casualties after Kenya's disputed 2007 elections.
In the landmark resolution passed by the AU on 27 May, the 54-member pan-African body claimed the Hague-based court is unfairly targeting Africans on the basis of race. The AU chairman and Ethiopian prime minister Hailemariam Desalegn said that the ICC process in Africa "has degenerated to some kind of race hunting".
It marked the first time that the AU formally moved against the ICC which denied the allegations, pointing out that four out of eight African cases currently under investigation were referred to the court by the countries themselves. The resolution also prompted condemnation from human rights groups such as Amnesty International which described it a "worrying attempt by the Kenyan authorities to avoid justice".
Although the resolution has no legal ramifications in relation to the ICC proceedings, it boosts Kenyatta's standing significantly on the African continent. The AU argued that the trial should be conducted in Kenya following the judicial reforms introduced as part of the nation’s new constitution voted in by Kenyans in 2010.
The AU adopted the ICC resolution by consensus despite facing “reservations” from Botswana and The Gambia, the latter of which is home to ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda.
The resolution was passed at the end of a two-day summit which took place at the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa, on the occasion of the body’s 50th anniversary.