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ICC Prosecutor Under Fire as African Union Backs Kenya

  • Michael Onyiego

President of the Assembly of State Parties to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, Christian Wenaweser, speaks about Kenya's quest to seek deferral of cases against six prominent Kenyans in connection with country's post election violence

President of the Assembly of State Parties to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, Christian Wenaweser, speaks about Kenya's quest to seek deferral of cases against six prominent Kenyans in connection with country's post election violence

International Criminal Court Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo is under fire as the African Union backs Kenya in its bid to stall trials aimed at the country’s election violence.
Once viewed in Kenya as a hero, ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo is now under fire in Africa, as the country moves forward with plans to forgo its own proceedings at the international court.

The prosecutor was, just months prior, seen as Kenya’s only hope for justice. After naming surprise suspects in his two cases probing Kenya’s violence, however, he has been accused of being "drunk with power" by Kenyan politicians.

The African Union is now jumping into the fire. Speaking at the A.U. Summit in Addis Ababa over the weekend, Chairman Jean Ping assured the Court of African support, but accused Moreno-Ocampo of bias. Ping highlighted the lack of court action in Gaza, Iraq and Burma (Myanmar) as evidence of a double-standard against African states.

On Sunday, the Executive Council of the African Union endorsed Kenya’s request for deferral. The Summit will close Monday with a final session involving Africa’s leaders. If the session produces support for Kenya, the continental body could then submit a formal request to the U.N. Security Council. Last week, the leader of the International Criminal Court's member states, President of the Assembly of States Parties Christian Wenaweser, warned against such a course of action.

"I have made it quite clear that from the perspective of the States Parties this would be a far more problematic course of action that has a number of legal and political pitfalls," said Wenaweser. "First of all, it would not be an expression of continued cooperation with the court by the Kenyan government. It would also implicitly be a statement that the situation here poses a threat to international peace and security."

In its bid to defer the Kenyan trial, leaders in Nairobi are arguing for a local mechanism to deal with the violence.
Wenaweser expressed support for the local efforts, but urged Kenya to work with the court, rather than around it. The Liechtensteiner diplomat told reporters the ICC judges also could grant Kenya a deferral if evidence of substantial efforts made towards a local mechanism were presented.

Kenya attempted to address the 2007-2008 post-election chaos through the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission, established in 2009. Despite many hopes, an ethics scandal engulfed its chairman and the commission never began work.
Many politicians believe the judicial reforms envisioned in the new constitution will help address the violence.


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