5 September 2013

Kenya ICC Withdrawal Sets Bad Precedent

Photo: Boniface Mwangi/RNW
Post-election violence in Kenya 2007: International Community calls on Kenya to think of the victims and not politics.

The Kenyan Parliament today passed a motion to withdraw from the International Criminal Court statute, making it the first country to make such a decision.

Opposition MPs boycotted the vote; however, a bill to this effect will be introduced in the next 30 days.

Earlier, a coalition of NGOs across Africa had warned that the country risked setting a bad precedent for other African countries. They added that Kenya's actions would hurt its reputation as a country that respects the rule of law and human rights.

The decision came five days before Kenyan Deputy President William Ruto was set to appear before the ICC.

Kenya's majority leader, Adan Duale, argued that the country had a right to pull out of the ICC and the charges against Kenyatta and Ruto are politically motivated. However, ICC convenor, William Pace, has warned that Kenya does not gain any legal advantage from withdrawing from the ICC.

"This motion to leave the ICC is a significant setback for a country that once proudly ratified the Rome Statute in 2002," he said, before adding that it would take a year for the withdrawal to take effect.

"The Rome Statute makes quite clear that obligations related to existing investigations continue even in the event of a withdrawal."

Amnesty International has said the move poses a threat to efforts to bring those who commit crimes against humanity to book and that the move "is just the latest in a series of disturbing initiatives to undermine the work of the ICC in Kenya and across the continent." Amnesty described the proposal as an affront to Kenyans who suffered during the 2007 post-election violence and are hoping for justice from the ICC.

The African Union has for long accused the ICC of witch-hunting African leaders. The five investigations launched by the ICC prosecution, since it started operations in 2002, are about alleged crimes in only African countries: Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, Sudan, Central African Republic and Kenya. During the 2013 Kenyan elections, the country made a defiant statement to the world by voting Uhuru Kenyatta despite warnings from the international world that support for the crimes against humanity would have "consequences."

But African countries applauded Kenyans for their decision and, in Uganda; President Museveni castigated the Western world for forcing their decisions on African leaders. Observers say it is this series of events combined with the African Union's suspicion towards the ICC that has emboldened Kenya to take the unprecedented step towards exiting the ICC.

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