THE HAGUE, Oct 25 – Kenya’s President has asked for his crimes against humanity trial to be postponed, citing the “national and international crisis” triggered by a deadly attack on a Nairobi shopping centre, his lawyers said on Friday.
Uhuru Kenyatta is due to go on trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC) next month on charges of masterminding some of the 2007-8 post-election violence in Kenya that left over 1,000 people dead and several hundred thousand displaced.
“The defence requests the chamber to vacate the 12 November 2013 date for the commencement of trial, and postpone the commencement of trial until at least 12 February 2014,” his lawyers said in a document released by the ICC.
Kenyatta, who was elected President in March, has long argued that his trial would hamper his running of the country.
His lawyers argued that last month’s militant attack on Nairobi’s Westgate shopping mall by Al-Qaeda-linked militants in which at least 67 people died meant he was urgently needed at home.
The attack was carried out by neighbouring Somalia’s Shabaab, which has threatened to launch further attacks.
“The Security Council has also repeatedly recognised the critical role to be played by Kenya and other regional United Nations member states in quelling the instability in Somalia,” said the document.
Kenya’s Deputy President William Ruto went on trial at the ICC last month on similar charges.
On Friday the court ruled that he must attend his crimes against humanity trial in person and only be excused in “exceptional circumstances”.
Judges ruled in July that Ruto could be excused from parts of his trial, but suspended that decision a month later after the prosecutor appealed.
The court has been caught up in accusations that it is targeting African leaders, with the African Union calling for immunity for heads of state and asking the UN Security Council to suspend ICC proceedings against Kenya’s leaders for a year.