24 September 2013

Kenya: ICC Responds to AU Over Uhuru and Ruto

Nairobi — The International Criminal Court (ICC) has responded to a letter by the African Union(AU) asking it to refer the cases against president Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto to Kenya to be handled by a "reformed judiciary" in the country.

Kenyatta and Ruto face charges of crimes against humanity. The hearing of the case against Ruto has already begun. Kenyatta's is scheduled for November.

Charges against both men relate to their role in the post election violence in Kenya in 2007 and 2008 in which 1,200 people were killed and 600,000 displaced.

In a response to the AU's letter written to the ICC on 10 September 2013, Judge Cuno Tarfusser, responded that the ICC presidency does not have the legal powers to entertain the concerns of the AU.

"...the Presidency has no legal powers to consider arguments and concerns related to ongoing cases, and that such matters should be raised before the relevant Chambers in accordance with the Rome Statute and the ICC's Rules of Procedure and Evidence", said the ICC last week.

The ICC maintained though that it was "fully committed to friendly and cooperative relations with the African Union in the spirit of the AU's and ICC's shared values".

In the September letter to the ICC, the AU said the it was "concerned that the proceedings of the court on the Kenyan defendants are beginning to adversely affect the ability of the Kenyan leaders to in discharging their constitutional responsibilities."

Early this month, Kenya's parliament voted to pull out of the jurisdiction of the ICC but the court's spokesperson said that would not affect the trial of Ruto and the impending trial of Kenyatta.

In the aftermath of the Westgate terror attack, Ruto's lawyer asked the trial judges for his client to travel back home to handle the situation, the court granted his wish to be absent from his hearing for a one-week period.

President Kenyatta who has also been accused of war crimes, and whose trial is supposed to start in November has also asked the court, for the second time, to allow him not to be physically present at all the hearings in The Hague to allow him continue with constitutional duties during the trial.

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