International court summit debates Africa issues

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The International Criminal Court's vexed relationship with Africa took center stage Wednesday on the opening day of the annual summit of its 122 member states.

The prosecutions of Kenya's president and his deputy have plunged relations between the world's first permanent war crimes court and the African Union to the deepest point in the court's 12-year history.

Kenyan Deputy President William Ruto is on trial for allegedly fomenting violence in the aftermath of his country's 2007 elections, and President Uhuru Kenyatta is due to go on trial in February on similar charges. Both men insist they are innocent.

"The court is facing a test of its veracity and its effectiveness," Kenya's Foreign Affairs Minister Amina Mohamed told delegates. "This meeting must come up with practical solutions to the challenges facing the court and the entire Rome Statute system."

The Rome Statute is the court's founding document, and one of its provisions is that heads of state do not enjoy immunity from prosecution.

But the African Union argues that Ruto and Kenyatta's trials should be delayed because Kenya needs its leaders to help fight al-Shabab terrorists in neighboring Somalia and at home.

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