Friday, May 24, 2013
African nations have backed a request by Kenya for charges of crimes against humanity by its president to be referred back to the east African country, African Union documents show.
President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy, William Ruto, are both facing trial in the International Criminal Court (ICC),
accused of masterminding ethnic bloodshed in post-election violence
five years ago that killed more than 1,200 people. Both deny the
One minister, who asked to remain anonymous, told Reuters that the African Union
specifically avoided calling on the war crimes tribunal to drop its
prosecution, but he acknowledged that the request for a local process
amounted to the same thing.
The document seen by Reuters on Friday said: "(The
Assembly) supports and endorses the eastern Africa region's request for a
referral of the ICC investigations and prosecutions."
The proposal, drafted after foreign ministers had
debated the issue late on Thursday, now has to be voted on by heads of
state, which diplomats say is typically a rubber-stamping exercise.
Kenya told the assembly that the ICC trials risked
destabilizing east Africa's biggest economy when it was undertaking
reforms to avoid a repeat of the violence after the election in December
The African Union said that a referral of the cases
would "allow for a national mechanism to investigate and prosecute the
cases under a reformed judiciary ... to prevent the resumption of
conflict and violence in Kenya."
The ICC's chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, has
previously said that she will not drop the cases. Many Africans feel
that the continent is targeted by the ICC, making the court deeply
unpopular across Africa.
Kenyatta's trial is due to begin in July.
(Additional reporting and writing by Richard Lough; Editing by Drazen Jorgic and David Goodman)