Africa in spotlight at meeting of 122 ICC members

AP News
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Posted: Dec 08, 2014 10:13 PM

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The International Criminal Court's 122 member states opened their annual meeting Monday with Africa the focus, as the court is roiled by the collapse of the case against Kenya's president and charges that it targets only Africans.

The meeting comes just three days after the ICC's chief prosecutor dropped charges against Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta, accusing Kenya of blocking her investigation. And it comes amid fierce criticism by some Africans who say the ICC unfairly targets the continent — only Africans have been prosecuted since the court's founding in 2002.

Sidiki Kaba, the new president of the Assembly of States Parties, called for reconciliation with all regions, especially Africa. In his inaugural speech to the assembly, he said members of the ICC must change Africans' negative perception of the court.

"The ICC must listen to the recriminations of Africa, which are not all illegitimate or devoid of basis," Kaba said.

"Africa cannot continue to be the only one before the ICC," said Kaba, Senegal's justice minister.

He stressed that Africa "is not against the court," pointing to 34 African member states, the highest of any continent.

The court's chief prosecutor and four judges are Africans. Congo, Uganda, the Central African Republic, Ivory Coast and Mali have all asked the court to investigate alleged crimes, he said.

Kaba said he wants to get all 193 U.N. member states to join the ICC. The United States is not a member.

Kenya's U.N. Ambassador Macharia Kamau said he wanted the assembly to address concerns raised by his government and the African Union.

Kenya has asked for a discussion of the conduct of the court and top prosecutor Fatou Bensouda in the cases against Kenyatta and his Deputy President William Ruto for alleged involvement in the country's 2007 postelection violence. The African Union has not endorsed this proposal but it previously called for an amendment to the Rome Statute that founded the ICC to prohibit the prosecution of sitting leaders.

The collapse of the case against Kenyatta was a new blow to the court's prosecutors, who must rely on governments led by the very suspects they indict. Their office has launched nine full investigations in 12 years — all of them in Africa — and has just seven suspects in custody. A further 13 suspects remain at large despite arrest warrants, including Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and warlord Joseph Kony.

Bensouda' said she reserved the right to file charges against Kenyatta again if she got more evidence.