ADDIS ABABA — African foreign ministers are meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on Friday to discuss the continent’s fractured relationship with the International Criminal Court (ICC). While a mass walk out of the 34 African Union (AU) members who are party to the Rome Statue seems increasingly unlikely, a call for reform of the ICC and a decision to fast-track the establishment of an African Criminal Court could be made.
"We should not allow the ICC to continue to treat Africa and Africans in a condescending manner. That’s the reason why we have gathered here today," Tedros Adhanom, Ethiopia’s foreign minister, told those assembled for the extraordinary meeting called for by Kenya.
The ICC to date has opened investigations in eight countries and publicly indicted 32 people, all of them African. The AU has long protested that the court is unfairly targeting the continent and is particularly incensed by the indictment of serving heads of state — President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, and his deputy William Ruto — which it says undermines efforts to promote peace and reconciliation in the affected countries.
"Far from promoting justice and reconciliation and contributing to the advancement of peace and stability in our continent, the court has transformed itself into a political instrument targeting Africa and Africans," Mr Adhanom said.
He said that the recent ICC decision that Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto attend all court proceedings not only undermined the ability of the Kenyan leaders to discharging their constitutional responsibilities but also posed a threat to the country’s sovereignty. "The recent terrorist attack in Nairobi (is) underscoring the need for Kenyan leaders to be front and centre in the fight against terrorism and not be distracted in anyway by the court," Mr Adhanom said.
Ambassadors to the AU on Thursday drafted a declaration for consideration by foreign ministers on Friday and heads of state on Saturday. It is said to contain recommendations for the development of an AU framework on national reconciliation and justice based on existing legal instruments and the finalisation of the protocol on the establishment of the African Criminal Court which would investigate and prosecute gross violations of human rights committed within the continent.
There is also a feeling of increased frustration that repeated African requests to the United Nations (UN) Security Council, under article 16 of the Rome statue, for deferral of the cases against Mr Bashir and Mr Kenyatta have gone unheeded.
Senior researcher at the Institute of Security Studies in Addis Ababa Solomon Dersso said that any AU declaration would include a call for an amendment to article 16 allowing for the responsibility of deferring ICC cases to transfer to the UN General Assembly in instances when the UN Security Council failed to take a decision in a specified timeframe.
Declarations on the situation in Libya and the tragic death of more than 300 migrants off the coast of Lampedusa are also being considered, and heads of state will elect a new peace and security commissioner on Saturday to replace Ramtane Lamamra who was recently appointed foreign minister of Algeria.