A human rights campaigner says that as the trial of Kenyan deputy President William Ruto is set to begin September 10 at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, the focus should be on the victims of the crimes against humanity that he is accused of committing and not on the politics.
This comes as Kenya’s parliament voted Thursday to withdraw from the ICC, where President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy are due to go on trial for crimes against humanity for their alleged roles in the country’s 2007 post-election violence.
Richard Dicker, director of the International Justice Program at Human Rights Watch said the parliament’s decision would not impact Ruto’s upcoming trial.
In addition, Dicker said Ruto cannot refuse to appear before the ICC because he had pledged to cooperate with the court.
He said the ICC got in involved because Kenya’s parliament failed to pass legislation establishing a domestic tribunal to try those accused of complicity in the post-election violence.
“I think what’s really important to understand is that Kenya’s leaders broke their promises to hold national trials in Kenya. That failure obliged the ICC to step in as a court of last resort. And as Deputy President William Ruto’s trial begins, the focus needs to be on the horrific crimes committed five years ago not on the politics,” he said.
Dicker said Ruto cannot refuse to appear before the ICC because he had pledged to cooperate with the court.
“The motion adopted today, with all respect to the Kenyan parliament, has no impact whatsoever on the obligation of the deputy president to do what he pledged to do, and that is be there for the start of his trial on these serious charges,” head said.
The African Union has criticized the ICC of focusing intensely on the continent. For example, over the last decade, it has been noted that the ICC has opened eight investigations, all of them in Africa, with more than two dozen people indicted.
But ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda has denied the court targets only Africans. She said the court is simply seeking justice for victims of crimes against humanity.
Besides, Dicker said, the ICC was invited by several African countries to investigate crimes against humanity.
“African states were active participating members of the group that created the ICC. And five governments, those in Uganda, Congo, Central African Republic, Mali and Cote d’Ivoire had asked the ICC to come to their countries and begin work there,” he said.
Dicker said he does not expect that the decision by Kenya’s parliament to withdraw from the ICC would lead to other countries leaving the court.
He also said the parliament’s decision is unlikely to enhance Kenya’s standing internationally or in Africa.