Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has renewed his political onslaught on the International Criminal Court, with a pledge to file a motion at the next African Union Heads of State Summit seeking withdrawal of all African member states from the Rome Statute.
President Museveni said he was happy with the Prosecutor’s decision to withdraw charges against Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta, but was disappointed by the refusal to allow the AU’s recommendation that no head of state should be tried by the court while in office.
“Let me tell those [ICC] people abroad that they should stop their foolishness. I am happy because President Uhuru Kenyatta’s case has collapsed. However, because of their arrogance they are still continuing with Deputy President William Ruto’s case, yet he was also elected by the Kenyan people,” he said, to applause by Kenyans attending Jamhuri Day celebrations in Nairobi.
The next AU Summit is set to be held next year in Ethiopia. Last year, in October, the Summit unsuccessfully tried to have President Kenyatta’s case deferred.
The crimes against humanity charges against President Kenyatta were withdrawn on December 5, after the Court declined the Prosecutor’s application for an adjournment pending the government of Kenya’s co-operation, and asked her to either drop the charges or proceed to trial.
The Kenyatta case has been a headache for the AU, which has been pushing for immunity from prosecution for any sitting president. Another African head of state being sought by the Court is Omar al-Bashir of Sudan.
Africa has the highest membership at the ICC. Of the 122 countries that are State Parties to the Rome Statute, 34 are from Africa, 18 from Asia-Pacific states, 27 from Latin American and Caribbean states, 18 from Eastern Europe and 25 from Western European and other states.
Mr Ruto, whose trial in the Hague Court is ongoing, said he was confident “with your prayers, my case and that of (journalist Joshua) Sang will also head the same way.”
Taking a cue from President Museveni, President Kenyatta termed ICC as a real threat to Kenya’s reconciliation efforts. “It also offers no hope for those affected and is driven by external agendas,” he said. The president thanked the African leaders for standing by Kenya in fighting the ICC cases.
“The AU and African leaders reached out to us and offered us help. Africa has been true to us and we will keep the faith in Africa,” he said.
Meanwhile, in New York where the Assembly of State Parties is underway, Kenya’s proposed amendments to the Rome Statute did not make it to the agenda. This was despite a spirited diplomatic push by Nairobi and Kenya’s permanent representative to the UN Macharia Kamau that the county’s concerns over the ICC be part of the agenda.
Sources in New York told The EastAfrican that most diplomats from other countries were not keen on the Kenyan situation, but were more interested in emphasising the need for partner states to co-operate with the ICC, with most of them noting that non-co-operation was the single most important obstacle before court.
Diplomats from Ghana, Ivory Coast, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Senegal and South Africa endorsed the ICC, its mandates, and its fight against impunity, and called for increased dialogue with the ICC. Those who attended the meeting said this stance was counter to Kenya’s attempt to question the credibility of the court. The meeting, which started on December 8, will end on December 17.
In his address to the assembly, Mr Kamau said Kenya had put forward a set of amendments for improving the operations of the ICC and its co-operation with partner states.
“Kenya has strong views on the manner in which the Rome Statute is being interpreted and implemented. Kenya also has strong views on the way in which the ICC has gone about is business, particularly in relation to our country,” said Mr Kamau.
Among the key amendments Kenya had proposed were changes to Article 27 to read that “Serving Heads of State, their deputies and anybody acting or is entitled to act as such may be exempt from prosecution during their current term of office.” On Article 70, which presumes that offences against the ICC can only be committed by the accused, Kenya wants possible offenders to include court officials and the Office of the Prosecutor.
The country also wants amendments to Article 112 for the Independent Oversight Mechanism — that operates independently from the Office of the Prosecutor — to be empowered to carry out inspection, evaluation and investigations of all the organs of the Court.
Finally, Kenya wants the Rome Statute to recognise regional judicial mechanisms — such as the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights — as complementary to national criminal jurisdictions in matters of international crimes.
In elections of judges, Africa did not get any of the four slots after Tunisia and Madagascar withdrew their candidacy. Consequently, three Europeans and one Asian — Chang-ho Chung of South Korea, Piotr Hofma ski of Poland, Marc Perrin de Brichambaut of France and Bertram Schmitt of Germany — were elected.
On the sidelines of the assembly, representatives of the victims of the withdrawn case against President Kenyatta were putting pressure on ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda to find ways for the victims to get justice.
The group, which included the victims’ lawyer Fergal Gaynor, Kenyan civil society activist Harun Ndubi, Stella Ndirangu and Esther Waweru, argued that the Office of the Prosecutor had not been brave enough to confront Kenya’s hostile political environment.