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Pressure mounts on International Criminal Court to deferUhuru Kenyatta, William Ruto trials

By - The Standard Team | October 15th 2013
Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Amb Amina Mohamed addresses journalists outside the Office of the President at Harambee House in Nairobi, Monday.   [PHOTO: EVANS HABIL/STANDARD]

By The Standard Team

Kenya yesterday kept up the pressure on the ICC, saying it should suspend the ongoing trial of Deputy President William Ruto pending consideration of Africa’s resolution by the UN.

And reports claimed that Western diplomats had agreed to a draft proposal to the UN Security Council to suspend President Uhuru Kenyatta’s case for one year as demanded by the African Union. 

Referring to the AU resolution urging the deferral of the cases against the Kenyan leaders, Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed said the International Criminal Court should suspend Ruto’s trial.

Ruto had returned to Nairobi at the weekend to allow Uhuru to travel to Ethiopia for the special AU summit and is back at The Hague where his trial resumed yesterday.

“The summit requested the ICC to postpone the trial of President Kenyatta and suspend proceedings against Deputy President Ruto until such a time as the United Nations Security Council pronounces itself on Kenya’s request for a deferral,” said Mohamed.

Mohamed reiterated AU’s position that sitting Heads of State and other senior State officials are “granted immunities during their tenure of office.”  President Uhuru’s trial at the ICC is scheduled to start on November 12 but the AU has pressed the UN Security Council to sanction the deferral of the case before then.

“The President’s case is due to begin on November 12 – in a month’s time. The AU made requests to the Security Council, first under paragraph 9 (iii) for a suspension of the proceedings until the end of the terms in office of the President and his Deputy,” she said.

“It was also decided that the President should not appear before the court until the concerns raised by the AU have been adequately addressed by the Security Council and the ICC,” Mohamed told a press conference at Harambee House, Nairobi.

Suspend investigations

When asked to give a straight answer of whether Uhuru will honour his date with ICC in the event the UN Security Council snubs AU, Mohamed replied: “Don’t ask me to predict events that are yet to happen.”

She explained that Kenya and the AU were jointly drafting a paper to be submitted to the Security Council that sits in New York, US.

Article 16 of the Rome Statute, which establishes the ICC, requires the ICC to suspend investigations and prosecutions after a resolution by the UN Security Council on grounds of threats to peace and security.

Yesterday, the Daily Telegraph, while quoting anonymous sources, reported that Western diplomats are preparing a UN Security Council resolution that would put the ICC case on hold after the AU lodged objections to the trial of Uhuru.

“Uhuru is not an indicted figure who is defying the court like Sudan’s President (Omar) Bashir. He is someone who is working closely with the West in a region in chaos that needs to tackle a very worrying terrorist situation,” the paper quoted a senior European diplomat saying. “A solution must be found that avoids a breakdown in relations with Kenyatta or the court’s authority,” the diplomat says.

When contacted by The Standard yesterday, the United Kingdom through the British High Commission in Nairobi appeared to distance itself from the story.

“The UK position has not changed. We welcome President Kenyatta’s and Deputy President Ruto’s continued co-operation with the Court,” the High Commission’s Head of Communications John Bradshaw said in a one-line statement.

Cabinet Secretary Mohamed also said they were not privy to such reports but described the development as positive news. “I have also read the story just like you and it’s good to hear such a positive development which we have been yearning for,” Mohamed added.

The Cabinet Secretary faced a barrage of questions to explain how President Uhuru’s ICC case had become a national challenge, yet he repeatedly assured Kenyans ahead of his election that the ICC issue was “personal challenge”.

Mohamed responded: “We were all here, didn’t you see him arrive at the Bomas of Kenya and immediately he received the winner’s certificate everything changed?” Earlier, the President’s spokesman Manoah Esipisu had tweeted: “President Kenyatta: I am no longer a private citizen observing personal obligations.”

Hauled to court

Mohamed said the AU’s push is not insensitive to Joshua arap Sang who is Ruto’s co-accused.  She defended the move to shield Uhuru from trial on grounds that a sitting president cannot be hauled to court.

Mohamed said the AU recognised that a sitting Head of State, “democratically elected, and with a clear mandate from the Kenyan people, must govern,” saying that is what Kenyans expect.  “On behalf of the country, let me say that we were extremely humbled and are very grateful for the unparalleled support that we received from our continent.”

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