South Africa on Tuesday skirted declaring its position on withdrawing from the International Criminal Court just days before African leaders debate the matter amid claims the tribunal targets the continent.

President Jacob Zuma will this weekend attend an African Union summit which will discuss Africa's relationship with the world's first permanent court to try war crimes and crimes against humanity.

But the country's foreign minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane refused to be drawn on Pretoria's stand days ahead of the meeting in Addis Ababa.

"South Africa is going to that meeting to participate, fully aware of the developments that have taken place, but having listened to genuine complaints," she told journalists.

"We were there when the ICC was formed. We understood why we needed the ICC."

Some countries in the 54-member bloc have accused the ICC of targeting Africans in its prosecutions, pointing to the high-profile trials of top leaders of Kenya and an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir.

The trial against Kenyan Deputy President William Ruto started last month, and President Uhuru Kenyatta's case will begin in November. Both are charged with stoking violence after a disputed 2007 presidential election.

Meanwhile several states have disregarded Bashir's arrest warrant for rights abuses.

But former UN secretary general Kofi Annan has dismissed claims that the ICC unfairly targets African leaders.

Four of the cases before the world court had been referred by African leaders themselves, while the UN Security Council had moved on two others concerning Darfur and Libya, Annan said Monday.

African countries account for 34 of the 122 parties to have ratified the Rome Statute, the court's founding treaty, which took effect on July 1, 2002.

Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic was the first sitting head of state to be indicted for war crimes.

The UN-backed court upheld a 50-year sentence for former Liberian president Charles Taylor last month, convicted for arming rebels during Sierra Leone's brutal 1990s civil war.

 

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