The International Criminal Court is treating Africa unfairly, a senior African Union official has said, at the start of a special AU meeting to discuss a possible pull-out.
Ethiopian Foreign Minister Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the court was targeting Africa and Africans.
The two-day summit comes as Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta is due to face trial at The Hague next month.
He denies charges of organising violence after the 2007 elections. Those leaders seeking to skirt the court are effectively looking for a license to kill, maim and oppress their own people”
On Thursday, Mr Kenyatta again asked for the charges to be dismissed.
He, along with some other African leaders, argue that a serving president should not be made to face trial.
The ICC has rejected a previous request that he be allowed to give evidence by video link.
His deputy, William Ruto, faces similar charges, which he also denies.
His trial was postponed for a week last month to allow him to return home to help deal with the terror attack on the Westgate shopping centre.
Mr Tedros, who is the current chairman of the AU’s Executive Council, said the ICC was “condescending” towards the continent.
“Far from promoting justice and reconciliation… the court has transformed itself into a political instrument targeting Africa and Africans. This unfair and unjust treatment is totally unacceptable,” he said.
He said that the ICC had failed to respond to the African Union’s previous complaints and said the issue should be referred to the UN Security Council.
Kenya’s foreign minister has denied initial reports that it is lobbying for the African Union to call for all member states to withdraw from the ICC.
Analysts say several East African nations favour such a move, while there is less support in West Africa.
Botswana has also publicly supported the court, while South Africa’s governing African National Congress has voiced criticism.
Thirty-four of the AU’s 54 members have signed up to the ICC.
If a large number of the 34 African countries were to pull out, it would be a huge blow to the ICC, which has 122 members.
Kenya’s parliament has already passed a motion for the country to withdraw.
Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has said that withdrawing from the court would be a “badge of shame”.
Nobel Peace laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu has also voiced his support for the ICC.
“Those leaders seeking to skirt the court are effectively looking for a license to kill, maim and oppress their own people without consequence. They believe the interests of the people should not stand in the way of their ambitions of wealth and power,” he wrote in an article carried by several newspapers.
“They simply vilify the institution as racist and unjust, as Hermann Goering and his fellow Nazi defendants vilified the Nuremberg tribunals following World War II,” he wrote.
All eight of the cases currently open at the ICC are in Africa but it is also investigating possible cases elsewhere.