African Union summit on ICC pullout over Ruto trial

ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda: "Let us not forget what happened in Kenya after the elections in 2007/08 - crimes were committed"

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The African Union has called a special summit to discuss a mass withdrawal from the International Criminal Court (ICC) in protest at the trial of Kenya's Deputy President William Ruto.

A letter sent to the ICC signed by African leaders says Mr Ruto's presence in The Hague will disadvantage Kenya.

The AU has previously accused the ICC of "hunting" African leaders and ignoring atrocities elsewhere.

The ICC says it is standing up for victims of crimes wherever they are.

The extraordinary summit will be held in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, on 13 October.

Days before the start of Mr Ruto's trial this month, Kenya's parliament voted to leave the ICC.

This decision will not affect the trial of Mr Ruto, or Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta, whose case is due to start in November.

Both men deny charges of organising violence following the disputed 2007 elections, in which some 1,200 people were killed.

'Political matter'

Thirty-four of the AU's 54 members have signed up to the ICC.

"The Kenyans have been criss-crossing Africa in search of support for their cause, even before their parliament voted to withdraw from the ICC," an AU official told the Reuters news agency.

ICC in brief

Fatou Bensouda
  • Set up in 2002
  • Based in The Hague, the Netherlands
  • Deals with genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and the crime of aggression
  • Court has been ratified by 121 countries, including 34 in Africa
  • Chief Prosecutor is Fatou Bensouda, from The Gambia
  • Democratic Republic of Congo militia leader Thomas Lubanga is the only person convicted so far
  • Investigating cases in Uganda, DR Congo, the Central African Republic, Sudan, Kenya, Libya and Ivory Coast

Source: ICC factsheet

But the official said it was not clear that the required two-thirds majority would vote to leave the ICC.

The BBC's Emmanuel Igunza in Addis Ababa says Rwanda is one of the countries pushing for a rethinking of the relationship between Africa and the ICC.

"It is not only the case of Kenya," Rwanda's AU ambassador Joseph Nsengimana told the BBC.

"We have seen international justice is becoming more and more a political matter," he said.

The AU has called for the trials of Kenya's leaders to be sent back to Kenya.

The cases were only referred to the ICC after Kenyan politicians failed to set up special tribunals to prosecute those responsible for the violence.

In a letter sent to the ICC on 10 September - the day Mr Ruto's trial began, the AU argued that while he was in The Hague, President Kenyatta would not be able to leave the country to attend other meetings, such as forthcoming meetings at the UN and with the European Union.

The ICC judges have already agreed that the two trials should not be held at the same time, as Kenya's constitution requires that one of its leaders be present in the country at all times.

The ICC has responded to the AU letter by saying that the court's presidency does not have the powers to rule on ongoing cases and that this and any request to send the cases back to Kenya should be made directly to the judges.

The BBC's Odhiambo Joseph in Kenya's capital, Nairobi, says the ICC proceedings are being closely followed in the East African nation but are dividing people along political and ethnic lines.

Mr Ruto and President Kenyatta were elected in March.

They used their prosecutions by the ICC to bolster their campaign by portraying them as foreign interference in domestic affairs.

Mr Ruto is the first serving official to appear at the ICC.

The ICC was set up in 2002 to prosecute crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide.

All the eight cases it is currently investigating are in Africa.

Kenya's Foreign Minister Amina Mohamed says President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto should not face trial

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