UK video-link trial proposal gets massive backing

November 23, 2013 1:35 pm
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 The UK which floated the proposal argues that witnesses are allowed to give evidence by video and there is no reason why the accused cannot/CFM

The UK which floated the proposal argues that witnesses are allowed to give evidence by video and there is no reason why the accused cannot/CFM
THE HAGUE, Netherlands, Nov 23 – A proposal by the United Kingdom for Kenyan trials at the International Criminal Court to be held via video link has received the backing of over 20 nations at the ongoing Assembly of States Parties talks in The Hague.

The UK which floated the proposal argues that witnesses are allowed to give evidence by video and there is no reason why the accused cannot also participate in the trial by tapping into video-link technology, pursuant to Article 67 of the Rules of Procedure and Evidence.

Insiders at the meeting say this proposal was backed at a meeting attended by officials from the UK, Russia, France, Italy, Brazil, Norway, Chile, Austria, Romania, South Africa, Greece, Sweden, Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, Mexico, Sweden, Sierra Leona, Guatemala, Finland, Portugal, Romania, Kenya, Germany, Liechtenstein, New Zealand and Norway.

Guatemala on its part said there was general consensus that presence does not mean physical presence, it also includes presence by video conference.

Belgium on the other hand said: “We see no difficulty in supporting this amendment.”

Chile also threw its weight behind the suggestion, contending it was necessary to embrace and support all amendments that enhance cooperation.

France on its part said: “The proposal is perfectly sensible.”

Russia was forthright, declaring “this is practical, pragmatic and consistent with the Statute.”

Italy observed that the drafters of the Statute drew a line between obligation and rights. “To attend the proceedings is a right of the accused person in light of Article 67 of the Rome Statute and therefore the accused persons can waive that right. We support.”

The 12th ASP meeting which kicked off this week until November 28 has discussed issues of cooperation, complementarity, funding for the court and its budget. It also debated a proposal by the African Union for the exemption of sitting presidents from trial.

Already, Kenya has notified the United Nations Secretary General of its intention to pursue amendments to the Rome Statute to exclude a sitting president from prosecution by the International Criminal Court.

Foreign Secretary Amina Mohamed told reporters at the ASP that Kenya was now collaborating with working groups to reach consensus on the wording of the amendments.

She stressed that Kenya was not running away from the ICC and would continue cooperating with the court.

She went on to pay tribute to those who took part in the debate including the civil society saying it was necessary to ventilate all issues of concern.

“We need a scenario where we can govern the country and meet our international obligations,” she said.

Kenya made spirited efforts on Thursday for granting of immunity to a sitting president arguing that it posed a threat to regional peace.

Attorney General Githu Muigai said Kenya was a lynchpin for the region’s 250 million people and that the charges facing President Uhuru Kenyatta posed a threat to security in the region. “The international community should not play Russian roulette with security.”

“If immunity of a Head of State is good enough for the democratic sphere, then it is good for the international sphere,” the AG stressed.

“The ICC was not supposed to have a licence to act in a way that is politically or socially irresponsible.”

Civil society organisations led by the International Commission of Jurist’s George Kegoro, Njonjo Mue and George Morara of the Kenya Human Rights Commission however objected the proposed changes saying “granting immunity will promote impunity.”

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