African leaders support Kenya’s plan to defer ICC trialsJambonews | Category: Justice
ADDIS ABABA Jan 31 (Reuters) – African leaders backed Kenya’s plan to defer the cases of key suspects accused by the International Criminal Court (ICC) of masterminding post-election violence, the African Union said on Monday.
Boosted by the vote of confidence, Kenya is now likely to call for the U.N. Security Council to defer or suspend the trials from taking place for a year while it overhauls its judiciary to handle the cases.
“The summit approved Kenya’s request calling for a suspension of the trials,” Jean Ping, chairman of the African Union Commission told a news conference.
The ethnic bloodletting, which saw more than 1,200 people killed, was sparked when Prime Minister Raila Odinga, then opposition leader, accused incumbent President Mwai Kibaki of rigging the vote. The two later agreed to form a unity cabinet to end the bloodshed after weeks of negotiations.
Kibaki said on Monday the east African country was preparing the ground for local trials after adopting a new constitution in August that was designed to strengthen the judiciary.
“It will boost our efforts (for) peace, justice and reconciliation as well as uphold our national dignity and sovereignty; and prevent the resumption of conflict and violence,” Kibaki told the summit.
The case of Kenya’s post-election violence was referred to the ICC after east Africa’s largest economy failed to set up a local tribunal to try suspects.
Some government critics accuse Kibaki’s administration of trying to shield Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta and suspended ministers William Ruto and Henry Kosgey from The Hague-based court. Both Kenyatta and Ruto have said they intend to run for president in 2012.
“We cannot allow the only country in our region that has enjoyed stability to be destabilized on the grounds of a technicality,” Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi told a meeting between east African leaders, the AU and U.N.
The U.N. Security Council helped set up the ICC and has control over its mandate, enabling it to postpone cases for one year, especially if the prosecution of such cases could cause further upheavals in the country where crimes occurred.
It can however refuse, as it did when Sudan sought a delay in the case against President Omar Hassan al-Bashir.
Reporting by Richard Lough
Editing by Ralph Boulton
Source : Reuters