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Kenya giving ‘serious thought’ to quitting ICC

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Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta . / AFP PHOTO / STEFFI LOOS

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta . / AFP PHOTO / STEFFI LOOS

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said Monday his country was seriously thinking of quitting the International Criminal Court, after several other African nations moved to pull out of the tribunal.

Kenyatta and his Vice President William Ruto were dragged before the court after deadly 2007-08 election violence left over 1,200 dead. However the charges were dropped in 2014 with ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda citing a “relentless” campaign of victim intimidation.

“Our experience at the ICC demonstrated a glaring lack of impartiality in this institution. Some have withdrawn. Others have considered that step. Twice, our parliament has passed motions to withdraw,” Kenyatta said in a speech Monday.

“We have sought the changes that will align the ICC to respect for national sovereignty. Those changes have not been forthcoming. We will therefore need to give serious thought to our membership.”

African nations have long felt they are unfairly targeted by The Hague-based court, and the current exodus began when Burundi in October voted to leave the ICC, after the court’s prosecutor said she might open a case against the government.

South Africa and The Gambia quickly followed suit, raising fears of mass defections from the continent.

The tribunal opened in 2002 in The Hague as a court of last resort to try the world’s worst crimes where national courts are unable or unwilling to act.

Currently nine out of the 10 ICC investigations are in African countries. The other is in Georgia.

However experts point out that many of the current investigations — in the Central African Republic, Uganda, Mali and the Democratic Republic of Congo — were referred to the ICC by the governments of those states.

Cases in Libya and the Sudanese region of Darfur were referred by the UN Security Council. Only in Kenya and Ivory Coast did the ICC’s prosecutor initiate investigations.

Kenya was actually the first country to hold a vote to leave the court in 2013 with a symbolic motion in parliament which was never formalised.

Kenya’s 2007 elections were marred by allegations of vote rigging, but what began as political riots quickly turned into ethnic killings and reprisal attacks, plunging Kenya into its worst wave of violence since independence in 1963.

Kenyatta and Ruto were fierce rivals in the 2007 vote, but teamed up in peaceful 2013 polls.


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