A U.S.-based Kenyan law expert has described to VOA as ridiculous a decision by members of Kenya’s parliament to withdraw the country from the Rome Statute following a unanimous vote late Wednesday.
Joab Okello, administrative judge for the U.S. State of New York, also called on Kenyans to protest and renounce the decision by the legislators not to cooperate with the Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC).
“I was very outraged by that move because Kenya cannot afford to be a pariah state. We are one of the most important countries in Africa and we’ve maintained that for years. And, for the parliament to pass this bill, just because six people have been indicted, is outrageous,” said Judge Okello.
“The six individual must still answer to the ICC. What they are trying to do is protect these people so that they are not arrested. So, that means the ICC can only arrest the individuals if these individuals leave the country. But, if Kenya was a signatory, (to the ICC), then Kenya would have to arrest them if needed.”
Recently, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, chief prosecutor of the ICC, named six high-profile suspects he believed were masterminds of Kenya’s 2007 post-election violence that left more than 1,300 people dead and displaced hundreds of thousands. The suspects, Moreno-Ocampo said, would be charged with crimes against humanity.
The six, high-profile suspects include Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta, who also serves as Finance Minister, Cabinet Secretary Francis Muthaura, former police chief Hussein Ali, suspended Higher Education Minister William Ruto, Henry Kosgey, chairman of the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM), and Joshua Arap Sang, a journalist at a popular local radio station.
But, in voting Wednesday, the legislators suggested that Kenya’s local judicial system should handle the cases involving the post-election violence.
Judge Okello said that it is clear the legislators want to protect the high-profile suspects.
“Most Kenyans that I have talked to are outraged by this move (vote), and I hope that the two principals (president and prime minister) will not sign this bill. There has to be a way to reverse this action because Kenya cannot be a pariah state,” said judge Okello.
“I think Kenyans must express their outrage as soon as possible so that this vote is reversed. I can’t see it standing.”
Meanwhile, a recent poll shows over 85 percent of Kenyans support the ICC prosecution of the suspects.