Addis Ababa: The International Criminal Court was under fire on Friday over its "unfair" and "totally unacceptable" treatment of Africa, as Ethiopia opened a special African Union summit with a scathing attack on the tribunal.
The meeting comes amid mounting tensions between The Hague-based ICC and Kenya, whose president and vice-president have been charged with crimes against humanity for allegedly masterminding a vicious campaign of ethnic violence after disputed 2007 elections.
Several nations in the 54-member AU, whose rotating presidency is currently held by Ethiopia, have accused the ICC of singling out Africans for prosecution, and have demanded that the court drop the proceedings against Kenya`s leadership.
"The manner in which the Court has been operating, particularly its unfair treatment of Africa and Africans, leaves much to be desired," Ethiopian Foreign Minister Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told ministers and delegates at the opening of the two-day meeting.
"The court has transformed itself into a political instrument. This unfair and unjust treatment is totally unacceptable," he said of the ICC, the world`s first permanent court to try genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.
A Zimbabwean government official said today his country which never signed the Rome Statute supports calls for African states to cut ties with the ICC.
African countries account for 34 of the 122 parties to have ratified the Rome Statute, the ICC`s founding treaty, which took effect on July 1, 2002. A mass pull-out from the court -- as some countries have demanded -- could seriously damage the institution.
Sudan`s Foreign Minister Ali Karti told AFP that "African countries have their own mechanisms of justice and they prove to be good, better than the European ones".
The bloc, however, appears divided on the issue -- with countries like Kenya, Sudan, Ethiopia and Rwanda taking a tough line, but other nations seemingly more reluctant to get embroiled in a diplomatic confrontation and some prominent African figures lobbying hard against a pull-out.
South African anti-apartheid icon and Nobel peace laureate Desmond Tutu fired off a sharply-worded attack that compared ICC opponents to Nazis seeking to evade justice, and argued the number of African cases was merely a reflection on the dismal human rights record of many of the continent`s governments.