The African Union is telling the UN, and specifically the International Criminal Court, to butt out of African affairs. Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, also chairman of the AU, complained in particular about the ICC’s charges against (now President) Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto over their roles in tribal violence stemming from Kenya’s 2007 election. The BBC reports:
Speaking at the end of an AU summit in Ethiopia’s capital, Mr Hailemariam said the cases of Mr Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto should be referred to the Kenyan courts.African leaders were concerned that out of those indicted by the ICC, “99% are Africans”, Mr Hailemariam added.“This shows something is flawed within the system of the ICC and we object to that,” he said.The ICC had been formed more than a decade ago to end the culture of impunity, but “now the process has degenerated into some kind of race hunting”, Mr Hailemariam said.
The uncomfortable reality is that strong states can and do ignore the ICC with impunity, making it look less like an impartial enforcement tribunal and more like a hobbyhorse of rich-country human rights activists. The very existence of the court also creates perverse incentives. In Syria, Assad knows well that he can laugh at the court as long as he doesn’t lose the war. And if he happens to lose, a nice clean cell in the Hague would certainly be better than what would await him at the hands of his enemies.Only weaklings and losers go to the ICC for trial, and given that African states tend to be weak, poor, dependent on foreign aid and rich in human rights abuses, a high percentage of defendants are likely to come from there. The AU is the professional association of African rulers, so naturally it is going to object. And generations of experience of rich-country greed and hypocrisy mean that many people in Africa will take the AU charges seriously.The ICC has a long way to go.[Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Hailemariam Dasalegn, courtesy Getty Images]