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Amnesty urges Kenya not to withdraw from International Criminal Court

The Kenyan government’s proposal to withdraw from the International Criminal Court (ICC) Statute is an affront to the hundreds of thousands of Kenyans who lost their lives or were driven from their homes during the post-election violence that rocked the country in 2007-8, according to Amnesty International.

The proposal, which will be debated in an emergency parliamentary session on Thursday, comes just days before Kenya’s vice president William Ruto is due to stand trial in The Hague accused of crimes against humanity. Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta also faces serious charges there, his trial is due to start on 10 November.

Amnesty International’s Africa programme director, Netsanet Belay, said:

“This 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 International calls on each and every parliamentarian to stand against impunity and reject this proposal.”

The violence that followed the 2007 election in Kenya left over 1,000 people dead and half a million displaced. President Kenyatta and Vice-President Ruto, who were both senior political figures at the time of the post-election violence, are accused of crimes against humanity including murder, forcible population transfer, and persecution.

President Kenyatta is also accused of responsibility for rape and other inhumane acts – including forced circumcision and penile amputation – carried out by the Mungiki, a criminal gang allegedly under his control.

Even if Kenya withdraws from the Rome Statute, the decision will only come into effect in one year.

Netsanet Belay said:

“These cases must proceed and the government has a legal obligation to cooperate fully. Put simply, there is no legal way that the government can evade the justice process in these cases.”

However, withdrawal could preclude the ICC from investigating and prosecuting any future crimes committed after the withdrawal comes into effect. Cases could then only be brought before the Court if the government decides to accept ICC jurisdiction or the UN Security Council makes a referral.

Netsanet Belay added:

“Essentially, a withdrawal would strip the Kenyan people of one of the most important human rights protections and potentially allow crimes to be committed with impunity in the future.

“What we currently see is the government committing to cooperate with the ICC’s cases on one hand and taking every opportunity to politically attack the ICC and undermine it on the other.”

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