Arusha, October 13, 2013 (FH) – An extraordinary summit of the African Union (AU) decided Saturday in Ethiopia to ask the UN Security Council for a deferral of International Criminal Court proceedings against the presidents of Kenya and Sudan.

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The ICC’s founding Statute, the Treaty of Rome, allows for deferral at the request of the UN Security Council. 

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, who is due to go on trial before the ICC on November 12, “should be allowed to govern his country”, said Ethiopian Foreign Minister Tedros Adhanom Gebreyesus. He said the summit had decided that Kenyatta should not appear until the AU’s request has been answered.

Kenyatta is charged with crimes against humanity allegedly committed during post election violence in 2007-2008. Sudan’s President Omar Al Bashir is under two ICC arrest warrants for crimes allegedly committed in Darfur, including genocide.

The AU extraordinary summit was held at the request of Kenya, whose Deputy President William Ruto is already on trial at the ICC in connection with the post-election violence.

Ethiopian Prime Minister and AU chairman Hailemariam Desalegn said the AU would set up a contact group to hold discussions with UN Security Council members on the AU’s concerns about the ICC, notably the deferral request. 

The summit also passed a resolution stating that no sitting head of state should be prosecuted by an international tribunal.

However, Article 27 of the Statute of Rome rules out immunity.