The African Union (AU) [official website] called [official statement] Saturday for African countries to "speak with one voice" against the trials of sitting heads of state in the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website]. The statement comes in relation to the trial of two current heads of the Kenyan government, Kenya's president, Uhuru Kenyatta, and his deputy, William Ruto [ICC case materials]. The AU asked the UN Security Council [official website] to postpone the trials while the Kenyan leaders were still in power, but the resolution failed to get the required nine votes, making it the first resolution in decades to fail without a veto from one of the permanent members. Further, the statement emphasized the need for a united AU position for the proposed amendments to Articles 16 and 27 of the Rome Statute [text, PDF] which governs the ICC's jurisdiction. According to reports, only Botswana is opposed to the current AU position. The amendments will be considered by the Assembly of States Parties (ASP) [official website] to the Rome Statute during upcoming sessions.
The AU's position has sparked much controversy and criticism [JURIST op-ed]. In October Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] spoke out against [JURIST report] the AU's stance calling it an attempt at "political interference in independent judicial proceedings." The initial declaration [JURIST report] was given just days before as part of a protest against the trials of the Kenyan leaders, which have caused their own set of controversies. 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. In May, African foreign ministers requested [JURIST report] that Kenyatta and Ruto be tried in Kenya.