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African leaders to meet on Kenya's ICC trials

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Kenya's Deputy President William Ruto (right) reacts as he sits in the courtroom before their trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague on September 10, 2013. African leaders are to hold a special summit next month amid growing opposition to the crimes against humanity trials of Kenya's leadership at the International Criminal Court. (Pool/AFP/File)

African leaders are to hold a special summit next month amid growing opposition to the crimes against humanity trials of Kenya's leadership at the International Criminal Court, diplomats said Friday.

The African Union has accused the Hague-based ICC of singling out Africans for prosecution and has previously called for the court to drop the Kenya cases.

The pan-African bloc now wants the trials of Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and Vice President William Ruto shifted to Kenya.

The summit "will be a follow-up to the decision that that they took in May... where they requested the International Criminal Court to facilitate giving Kenya the opportunity to investigate and try the accused," the deputy head of the AU's executive branch, Erastus Mwencha, told AFP.

He said the meeting would take place "in early October" in the Ethiopian capital, where the AU is headquartered.

Kenyatta and Ruto, as well as former radio boss Joshua Arap Sang, face crimes against humanity charges for their alleged roles in orchestrating ethnic violence after disputed 2007 elections. The violence between their respective Kikuyu and Kalenjin communities left at least 1,100 dead and more than 600,000 homeless.

Earlier this month, Kenyan lawmakers voted on a motion to withdraw recognition of the court's jurisdiction.

Any move by Kenya to leave the ICC's Rome Statute will have no effect on the current trials, but observers say it may spark an exodus of court member states in Africa.

Mwencha said any decision to withdraw from the ICC was for member states, and not the AU, to decide.

"These are individual member states' decisions and AU doesn't in any way come in on that," he said.

The trial of Ruto and Sang is already underway, and Kenyatta's trial is set to begin in November. The three have so far cooperated with the court and have denied the charges against them.