In response to the campaign by the African Union and the Kenyan government, the Assembly of States Parties of the International Criminal Court (ICC) decided to amend the rules of procedure to allow accused persons with extraordinary public duties to attend trial processes from their home through representative or technological inputs. It is to be recalled that on 15 November 2013, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) voted against the African Union’s (AU) request for deferral of the trials of Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta and Vice President William Ruto for a year. The United States of America (USA), United Kingdom (UK), and France abstained. The very fact that the UNSC has ignored previous requests made by 53 members of the UN, the AU and 34 States Parties to the ICC is in itself condescending. Both Mr Kenyatta and Mr Rutto may benefit from this change of rules.
A positive impact of the AU’s campaign is forging a unified African voice on the issue. Until the Kenyan case, a unified African voice appeared rather elusive. The current AU campaign will certainly have an impact on the overall standing of the ICC in Africa. The most important message from the AU’s recent Summit on the ICC and the UNSC vote will be AU’s solidarity in its determination to oppose the ICC’s and UNSC’s relations with Africa. For many African countries, the recent UNSC decision will be seen as a continuation of the struggle against the unequal treatment of Africa in the international order.
To keep the ICC at bay and address concerns about the misuse of the ICC by dominant powers, African states must first totally reject impunity and establish national and regional mechanisms that will ensure accountability even at the highest level of political office.