Ahead of the trial of President Uhuru Kenyatta and Vice-president William Ruto for crimes against humanity, the Kenyan parliament is debating pulling out of the International Criminal Court, ICC
The court will next Tuesday start Ruto’s trial while it will November 12 open the trial of the President Kenyatta , who faces five charges of crimes against humanity, including murder, rape, persecution, deportation and other inhumane acts perpetrated during the post-election unrest.
If the plan eventually pulls through, Kenya would be the first to revoke its membership from the ICC.
Citing the fact that the United States is not a member, the majority leader of Kenya’s National Assembly, Adan Duale, Thursday argued that Kenya should withdraw from the statute that created the ICC.
Duale told a special session of parliament that U.S. Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush both argued against the United States becoming a party to the Rome Statute, which regulates prosecutions for war crimes and crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court.
He said Clinton and Bush refused to join the ICC in order to protect U.S. citizens and soldiers from potential politically-motivated prosecutions.
“Let us protect our citizens. Let us defend the sovereignty of the nation of Kenya,” Duale said in arguing for a vote to withdraw.
Another legislator, Asman Kamama in support of the withdrawal said: “Any law in this country or internationally like the Rome Statute can be repealed and can be amended. It is not cast in stone and we want to be the trail-blazers in the continent.”
However, there are indications that the withdrawal of Kenya from the ICC will not in any way affect the upcoming trials as the legal proceedings have already commenced against Kenyata and Ruto.
“Withdrawing from the Rome Statute has no impact on cases already open, it does not affect investigations, proceedings or trials which have already started,” ICC spokesman Fadi al-Abdallahhas said.
Vice President Ruto is expected to face trial next Tuesday for allegedly organising the 2007-2008 post-election unrest that killed at least 1,100 people and displaced more than 600,000, about two months ahead of Kenyatta’s.
The Hague-based court was set up in 2002 to try the world’s worst crimes, and countries voluntarily signed up to join.
Legislators will debate a motion on whether to pull out from the ICC, but any actual withdrawal requires the submission of a formal request to the UN, a process that would take at least a year.