[JURIST] The African Union (AU) [official website] unanimously resolved Saturday that African heads of state should be immune from prosecution by the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website; JURIST backgrounder]. In particular the AU denounced the ICC trials of Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta [official website; JURIST news archive] and Deputy President William Ruto [JURIST news archive]. The AU alleges that the EU, which funds 70 percent of the ICC’s budget, uses ICC prosecution to leverage political power in Africa. While the AU’s resolution has no legal effect, reports indicate the measure could embolden [allAfrica report] African leaders to reject ICC prosecution in the future. Kenyatta applied for a permanent stay [JURIST report] of the ICC proceedings earlier this week, claiming that a fair trial is impossible due to the corruption within the prosecution. Kenyatta and Ruto are charged with crimes against humanity for their alleged involvement in inciting violence after the 2007 election [JURIST news archive] resulting in more than 1,100 deaths.
In protest of these trials, Kenya’s National Assembly voted in September to withdraw from the ICC [JURIST report] and is expected to take action to this end soon. Kenya’s parliament began to formally debate [JURIST report] withdrawal earlier in September. In July the ICC rejected [JURIST report] a request by Kenyan officials to change the forum of the trials to Kenya or Tanzania. The defense request was filed in January under articles 3(3) and 62 of the Rome Statute and Rule 100 of the ICC Rules and Procedures of Evidence, which provides for in situ hearings. African foreign ministers requested [JURIST report] that Kenyatta and Ruto be tried in Kenya after the Kenyan Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) released a report [JURIST report] connecting Kenyatta and Ruto to the post-election violence. Even with charges for crimes against humanity pending against him, Kenyatta was able to win a controversial election [JURIST report] to the presidency in March.