May 28 (GIN) – As the African Union summit drew to a close this week, Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn leveled a stinging blow at the International Criminal Court (ICC) that prosecutes human rights violators, when he accused it of “hunting Africans” as 99% of those indicted by the ICC are from the continent.

“This shows something is flawed within the system of the ICC and we object to that,” he said.

He continued: “The intention (of the ICC) was to avoid any kind of impunity and ill governance and crime, but now the process has degenerated into some kind of race hunting.”

The Hague-based ICC, set up in 2002 to try the world’s worst crimes, insists it is an impartial body and is determined to continue with its case against Kenyan President Kenyatta and others in Africa.

“The International Criminal Court will not be reacting to African Union resolutions,” ICC spokesman Fadi El Abdallah told the AFP news wire. He pointed out that four out of eight cases under investigation in Africa were referred to the court by the countries themselves.

Also, 43 African countries signed the ICC’s founding Rome Statute, which 34 have ratified, “making Africa the most heavily represented region in the court’s membership.”

Africans currently charged with crimes by the ICC include former Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo and Sudan President Omar al-Bashir who defied an international arrest warrant to attend the summit in Addis Ababa. The ICC has charged Bashir with genocide over the conflict in Darfur.

AU Peace and Security Council head Ramtane Lamamra echoed those who questioned how the UN Security Council could refer Mr Bashir to the ICC when three of its 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.

“How could you refer the cases of others while you yourself don’t feel compelled to abide by the same rule?” he was quoted to say.

African leaders have been reluctant to enforce ICC warrants or support the prosecution of their counterparts, some of whom enjoy broad support by nationals at home. Currently, the AU is opposed to the ICC trying Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta on charges of crimes against humanity and wants the case moved back to Kenya.

Mr Kenyatta, elected in March, is due to be tried in July on claims that he fueled violence after disputed elections in 2007. He denies the charge.

Kenyan lawyer Wilfred Nderitu, who represents some 150 victims of the election violence, told BBC Focus on Africa, he was concerned about the safety of witnesses if Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto were tried in local courts.

He also doubted whether Kenya’s judiciary was capable of dealing with such complex cases.

Meanwhile, University of Minnesota professor Abdi Ismail Samatar commented on the concluding AU meeting.”Much like the past 50 years, there are a few leaders who are fully aware of what must be done and who have the courage to take charge,” he wrote.

“Will current African leaders rise to the challenge of the next 50 years?” he wondered. “There is a fleeting opportunity for the continent … (but) sleeping on the switch by free-riding the current resource boom will only reproduce Africa’s “Dome of Shame.”