15 November 2013

Kenya: UN Decides Not to Delay ICC Trial of Kenya Leaders

Photo: Julius Mwelu/IRIN
A pregnant woman runs past burning shacks in Nairobi during the 2007 post-election violence which led to the trials.

The UN Security Council has decided against delaying International Criminal Court human rights proceedings against Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy. The African Union had pushed for a postponement.

The Africa-sponsored resolution to defer the trial of Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto fell short of the necessary nine "yes" votes from the 15-member Council on Friday. Russia and China were among the seven nations to vote in the affirmative, while the remaining eight countries abstained.

It is the first time in decades that such a resolution has failed without a veto vote from one of the Council's five permanent members - the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China.

Postponement request

The deputy head of the African Union (AU) Commission Erastus Mwencha told the AFP news agency the organization was disappointed at the outcome of Friday's vote, saying "we will have to reflect on it and then find a way forward."

The AU had requested the trial be postponed in order to give Kenyatta and Ruto more time to deal with the aftermath of September's attack on the Westgate shopping center in Nairobi that killed 67 people.

Kenyatta and Ruto are accused of crimes against humanity for their roles in Kenya's post-election violence in 2007 and early 2008 that left more than 1,000 people dead. Both deny the charges and have in the past tried to have the cases against them halted or adjourned. Kenyatta's trial is due to begin on February 5 after being delayed three times while Ruto's began last month.

'Detrimental' resolution

The African nations, led by Rwanda, which proposed Friday's resolution, were criticized for the manner in which it was brought to the Council.

Guatemala's UN Ambassador Gert Rosenthal, who abstained, called the vote "detrimental" to the AU, the ICC (International Criminal Court) and the Security Council "which now shows up as divided."

"We are all adversely affected," he said, adding that honest efforts to build a relationship between the Council and the AU have been "compromised."

The Security Council may delay ICC proceedings for a year on the grounds of threat to international peace and security, under the Rome Statue treaty, which established the court.

dr/pfd (Reuters, AP, AFP)

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