[JURIST] An advisory board to the African Union (AU) on Saturday accused the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official websites] of narrowly focusing its investigations on African government leaders since its inception in 2002. Last April, AU members ordered [VOA report] the Economic Social and Cultural Council (ECOSOCC) [official website] to evaluate their ties to the ICC amidst growing concerns that ICC is inherently biased against them. The ECOSOCC now condemns the ICC, accusing the court of favoring the UN and EU nations that strongly support it. The board pointed to the fact that nine out of the ICC's 10 active investigations are based in Africa. The ECOSOCC has therefore recommended that AU members should quit the ICC should lawmakers follow through with a proposed amendment allowing the prosecution and arrest of African heads of state. Opponents of the recommendation have voiced concerns that quitting the ICC would increase the risk of human rights violations. Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] also stated that giving African leaders immunity would defeat the purpose of the ICC's creation. While the ECOSOCC does not officially speak for AU members, African nations continued to discuss the ICC during the AU summit taking place over the weekend.
An ICC matter of current concern has been an ongoing case against ex-Congolese military leader Jean-Pierre Bemba [JURIST news archive]. Last month the ICC sentenced Bemba to 18 years in jail after finding him guilty [JURIST reports] for crimes against humanity and war crimes stemming from his involvement in the conflict in the Central African Republic in 2002 and 2003. In September Bemba pleaded not guilty to charges of interfering with the administration of justice after he and four members of his legal team were ordered to stand trial [JURIST reports] on those charges. In October 2014 ICC Trial Chamber III delayed the closing statements [JURIST report] in the case against Bemba so that it could hear additional witness testimony after the defense requested to testify about alleged collusion between prosecution witnesses. In November 2013 four persons were arrested on charges of falsifying evidence [JURIST report] in connection with the trial of Jean-Pierre Bemba Bemba's defense lawyers opened their case before the ICC in August 2012.