Sun, Nov 03, 2013 - Page 6 News List

African nations urge UN to defer Kenyan ICC trials

Reuters, UNITED NATIONS

Rwanda, Togo and Morocco circulated among UN Security Council members on Friday a draft resolution to defer the International Criminal Court (ICC) trials of Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto for one year.

The African Union asked the council last week to postpone the trials of Kenyatta and Ruto so they can deal with the aftermath of the Nairobi mall attack by extremist group al-Shabaab in September, in which at least 67 people were killed.

Kenyatta and Ruto face charges related to the violence after Kenya’s 2007 elections, in which 1,200 people died. Both deny the charges and have tried to have the cases adjourned or halted. Ruto’s trial started last month, while Kenyatta’s trial is due to start on Feb. 5 after being delayed for a third time.

The council can defer International Criminal Court proceedings for one year under Article 16 of the Rome Statute that established the The Hague-based court a decade ago. The council would need to adopt a resolution to take that step.

“We are mandated by the African Union to ensure the deferral is granted,” Rwandan Ambassador to the UN Eugene Gasana told reporters in a statement on Friday. “We have a draft resolution ... we do hope and wish that it will be supported by all council members.”

However, the 15-member council, which heard an impassioned plea for a deferral from a delegation of African ministers during an informal meeting on Thursday, is split on the issue.

Diplomats speaking on condition of anonymity said the US stated on Thursday that it was opposed to a deferral.

A resolution needs nine votes and no veto by any of the five permanent council members — the US, Russia, Britain, China and France.

Council diplomats said that there was not enough support for a deferral of the Kenyan cases to be approved.

Some UN diplomats have said that the council had already turned down a previous deferral request by Kenya in 2011 and rejected a request in May for the cases to be terminated because the UN body had no such power.

The Kenyan cases have caused a growing backlash against the court from some African governments, which regard it as a tool of Western powers used to unfairly target Africans.

The African Union also plans to raise its issues with the court this month at a meeting of the Assembly of State Parties, which is made up of the 122 members of the court.

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