The African Union (AU) [official website; JURIST news archive] will vote on whether to establish a continental criminal court to try human rights crimes, an AU official said Friday. Judge Gerard Niyungeko, president of the African Court on Human and People's Rights (ACHPR), said that he believes an African court would better understand the context [SAPA report] of crimes committed in Africa, as opposed to courts in Europe. The ACHPR currently does not have jurisdiction to try criminals; it has asked the AU to pass a resolution granting it the authority to sentence human rights criminals. Niyungeko said that an African court is needed in addition to the Europe-based International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website; JURIST backgrounder] because there is a perception that the ICC only tries African criminals. If the AU passes the resolution, it could take years for it to be ratified by the member-states.
Last year, African Union Commission (AUC) [official website] Chairperson Jean Ping accused [JURIST report] ICC Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo of targeting citizens of African states for prosecution. The comments came in the wake of a vote by Africa's foreign ministers, who supported Kenya's bid to defer the trials of numerous suspects who allegedly planned the 2007 post-election violence [Reuters backgrounder]. In 2010 the Kenyan Parliament approved a motion to withdraw the country from the ICC [JURIST report]. The vote came a week after Ocampo presented cases against [JURIST report] six individuals believed to be responsible for the 2007 post-election violence that resulted in more than 1,000 deaths in the country. Although the vote was non-binding, it was a victory for the sponsor of the legislation, Isaac Ruto, who wanted the six suspects to be tried in Kenya.