Kenya to vote on ICC pullout before trials

Parliamentary deputy speaker Joyce Laboso issued the order for the "special sitting of the assembly" on Tuesday, with Parliament to meet on Thursday.

However, even should Kenya choose to leave the International Criminal Court (ICC) – the first country potentially to do so – it would not affect upcoming trials since legal proceedings have already started.

On Tuesday, the ICC trial opens of Vice-President William Ruto on three counts of crimes against humanity for allegedly organising 2007-2008 post-election unrest that killed at least 1 100 people and displaced more than 600 000.

Ruto's trial comes about two months ahead of that of President Uhuru Kenyatta, who faces five charges of crimes against humanity, including murder, rape, persecution, deportation and other inhumane acts.

Lawmakers are expected to debate and vote on a possible departure from the Rome Statute of the ICC, following a request from the senate's majority leader Kithure Kindiki.

"Any law in this country or internationally like the Rome Statute can be repealed and can be amended," said Asman Kamama, one of at least 30 lawmakers supporting Kindiki's petition.

"It is not cast in stone and we want to be the trail blazers in the continent."

The world's worst crimes
The Jubilee Coalition of Kenyatta and Ruto dominate both houses of Kenya's Parliament.

The Hague-based court was set up in 2002 to try the world's worst crimes, and countries voluntarily signed up to join.

Lawmakers will debate a motion on whether to pull out from the ICC, but any actual withdrawal requires the submission of a formal request to the United Nations, a process that would take at least a year.

"Withdrawing from the Rome Statute has no impact on cases already open, it does not affect investigations, proceedings or trials which have already started," ICC spokesperson Fadi El Abdallah said.

Kenyatta's trial opens in the Hague on November 12.

Both Kenyatta and Ruto have said they will cooperate fully with the court. They deny the charges against them.

Radio boss Joshua Arap Sang will stand trial alongside Ruto, also on crimes against humanity charges.

Vote rigging
The 2007 elections were marred by allegations of vote rigging, but what began as political riots quickly turned into ethnic killings and reprisal attacks, plunging Kenya into its worst wave of violence since independence in 1963.

Kenyatta and Ruto were fierce rivals in the 2007 vote, but teamed up together and were elected in March in peaceful polls.

Ruto will be the first senior politician to stand trial for crimes carried out during the violence, with Human Rights Watch this week stressing the importance of the ICC as "a court of last resort". – AFP

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