Addis Ababa - The International Criminal Court (ICC) has
become a "political instrument", Ethiopia's foreign minister said on
Friday, opening a meeting at which Africa will review its ties with the
Hague-based war crimes tribunal.
Friday's ministerial meeting of the African Union (AU) and a
summit on Saturday were called to cast a critical eye over the relationship
following ICC cases against Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy,
Both deny charges that they organised a killing spree after
Kenya's disputed 2007 election.
Last month, an AU official said the organisation would
consider a mass withdrawal by the continent's 34 signatories to the court's
Rome Statute, though ministers and others have since played down talk of such
Frustration at the ICC has been growing in Africa because
the court has only ever convicted one man, an African warlord, and all others
its has charged are also Africans.
Rights groups have urged the continent not to quit, saying
such a move would reverse efforts to end a culture of impunity they say has
prevailed in African politics.
The 54-member AU, headquartered in Addis Ababa, has backed a
Kenyan call for the Kenyan trials to be moved closer to home and appealed to
the UN Security Council to defer the two cases, both until now without success.
"We should not allow the ICC to continue to treat
Africa and Africans in a condescending manner," Ethiopian Foreign Minister
Tedros Adhanom told the opening meeting of foreign ministers, adding he
expected the AU to come up with recommendations.
"Far from promoting justice and reconciliation, and
contributing to the advancement of peace and stability in our continent, the
court has transformed itself into a political instrument targeting Africa and
The ministers then moved into a closed session.
London-based rights group Amnesty International urged
African nations not to withdraw cooperation with the court.
"Such a resolution would serve no purpose except to
shield from justice, and to give succour to, people suspected of committing
some of the worst crimes known to humanity," Amnesty's deputy director of
law and policy, Tawanda Hondora, said in a statement on Thursday.
Lawyers for Kenyatta asked on Thursday for his trial on
charges of crimes against humanity to be abandoned, saying defence witnesses
had been intimidated.
Ruto went on trial in The Hague last month and Kenyatta's
trial is due to start on November 12.
Hailemariam Desalegn, Ethiopia's prime minister, whose
country is not a court signatory, told Reuters this week the ICC was showing
Asked if the AU meeting would call for a mass walkout, he
said: "That is up to those members of the ICC who have signed the Rome
Statute. But as the African Union, we can only voice out the reality on the