Ethiopian leader accuses international court of racial bias

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) - Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, the current chairman of the African Union, on Monday accused the International Criminal Court of racial bias and targeting Africans for prosecution,

Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn arrives at the African Union Headquarters for the 21st Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of States and Government in capital Addis Ababa May 26, 2013. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri

The Hague-based court was set up to bring the perpetrators of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity to justice - a mission that Hailemariam said it has lost sight of.

“The intention was to avoid any kind of impunity but now the process has degenerated into some kind of race-hunting,” Hailemariam told reporters at the end of African Union summit in Addis Ababa. “So we object to that.”

During the summit, African leaders backed a Kenyan proposal for the tribunal to refer its cases against President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy for alleged crimes against humanity back to Kenya.

Kenyatta and William Ruto are accused of masterminding ethnic violence that killed more than 1,200 people after a disputed presidential election five years ago. Both deny the charges.

A new constitution ratified after the turmoil and a reformed judiciary meant Kenya could deal with the matter itself, African Union officials said.

A senior AU official said the ICC and the U.N. Security Council needed to be more responsive to decisions taken by Africa.

“It is not a court of the north to try leaders from the south,” Ramtane Lamamra, the AU’s peace and security head, told a news conference.

It was unreasonable for the United Nations to refer Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir to the ICC when three of the Security Council’s five permanent members - the United States, Russia and China - had either not signed up to or not ratified the Rome Statute which established the ICC, he said.

“How could you refer the cases of others while you don’t feel compelled to abide by the same rule,” Lamamra said.

Reporting by Richard Lough and Aaaron Maasho; Editing by George Obulutsa and Angus MacSwan