Kenya MPs agree to pull out of ICC

2010-12-23 21:05

Nairobi - Kenyan lawmakers have passed a motion calling on the government to withdraw from the statute establishing the International Criminal Court (ICC) in a move intended to head off the trial of senior political figures.

ICC Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo last Wednesday named six Kenyans he considered most responsible for the violence that claimed over 1 100 lives in the wake of December 2007's disputed elections.

Uhuru Kenyatta, deputy prime minister and son of Kenya's first president, and William Ruto - who has been suspended from his post as higher education minister pending a corruption probe - were the two highest profile accused.

Lawmaker Isaac Ruto, an ally of his namesake William Ruto, brought the motion for the second time on Wednesday evening, saying he wants to see the suspects tried locally.

Lawmakers overwhelmingly backed the motion, with some accusing the ICC of being a colonial court.

"It is only Africans from former colonies who are being tried at the ICC ... we should not willingly allow ourselves to return to colonialism," Energy Minister Kiraitu Murungi said.

Former UN chief Kofi Annan, who brokered the deal ending the violence, passed the post-election violence investigation to the ICC after Kenya failed to set up local tribunals. However, Kenyan lawmakers argue that a new constitution passed this year means Kenya will have the capability to try suspects locally.

Even if Kenya should pull out of the Rome Statute, it would not halt the ICC probe into the six suspects due to the one year's notice needed to pull, according to Moreno-Ocampo.

"I don't think there is any way to change the case," he told VoA's Straight Talk Africa on Wednesday evening. "According to the law, if Kenya withdrew from the system it would be one year, so it would be late for this case."

ICC judges must now decide if there is enough evidence to go to trial, and could issue summonses for the accused - also including another cabinet minister, the head of the civil service and the former police chief - early next year.

Should arrest warrants have to be issued, any decision by Kenya to pull out of the Rome Statute could have an impact, as the East African nation would then not be obliged to arrest and hand over the suspects.