Kenya’s parliament has voted to tell the government to withdraw from the International Criminal Court. The vote comes before the country’s president and deputy president face trial in The Hague.
The parliament in Nairobi, which is dominated by the alliance that brought President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto to power in a March vote, made its decision after several hours of debate.
The move is a direct snub to the ICC ahead of the trials of Kenyatta and Ruto, who are accused of fomenting post-election bloodshed more than five years ago.
Introducing the motion to leave the ICC, parliamentary majority leader Aden Duale said doing so would “redeem the image of Kenya.” He also proposed a bill to request a withdrawal within 30 days.
Kenya’s withdrawal will be the first in the court’s history. However, it will not affect the upcoming trials, as legal proceedings have already begun.
On Tuesday, Vice President Ruto will come before the court to face three counts of crimes against humanity for allegedly organizing post-election unrest in 2007-2008 in which at least 1,100 died and hundreds of thousands were displaced.
Kenyatta is to go on trial some two months later, facing five charges of crimes against humanity including murder, rape, persecution and deportation.
Both men have denied the charges against them, but say they will cooperate fully with the court.
Kenya’s 2007 elections were followed by ethnic killings and reprisal attacks that saw the country experience its worst violence since independence in 1963.
Kenyatta and Ruto were rivals in the 2007 poll, but have since teamed up and were elected in March in a peaceful vote.
The Hague-based International Criminal Court was set up in 2002 to try the world’s worst crimes. Countries voluntarily sign up to join. Any actual withdrawal requires a formal request by the government to the United Nations, a process that would take at least a year.
tj/ccp (AFPE, AP)