NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 16 – The United States, Britain and France now say that Africa’s push for the deferral of the Kenyan ICC cases should be put before the Assembly of States Parties due to start in The Hague on Wednesday.
In a statement, Britain’s UN envoy Mark Lyall Grant said that during the meeting, time will be devoted to addressing the African Union’s concerns.
He pointed out that the UK fully understood the desire to allow President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Deputy William Ruto to fulfill their constitutional responsibilities and that they are engaged and prepared to address those concerns.
“The Assembly of States Parties meets in five days time. A dedicated segment will be devoted to addressing the African Union’s concerns. Preparatory work is already under way and a number of amendments have been tabled, including one by the United Kingdom on presence through video technology,” he said.
The envoy said that the UK did not think the United Nations Security Council was the right place to address Africa’s concerns, hence their abstention at the vote.
“The Court itself has taken a number of decisions, which help to mitigate the African Union’s concerns, including staggering the proceedings and excusing presence in exceptional circumstances,” he stated.
“On 31st October the start date of President Kenyatta’s trial was put back – for the third time – to February 2014. The Court rightly takes such decisions independently on the basis of applications made by the defendants. These developments demonstrate a constructive, creative and legally proper response to the concerns raised,” he explained.
He stated that the ICC, by design, operates in and around conflict situations where there is a threat to peace and stability.
“It was established as a court of last resort, with strong support from African States, to deal with such situations. Of the eight situations before the Court, five were initiated at the request of African States Parties. Nobody, least of all the United Kingdom, underestimates the gravity of the security challenges in the Horn of Africa,” he said.
His sentiments were echoed by the US Permanent Representative to the United Nations Samantha Power who said that the concerns raised by Kenya regarding the ICC proceedings are best addressed within the framework of the Court and its Assembly of States Parties, and not through a deferral mandated by the Security Council.
“We are also encouraged that the Assembly of States Parties, which includes the government of Kenya, is working to enable trial proceedings to be conducted in a manner that will not force the defendants to choose between mounting a vigorous legal defense on the one hand and continuing to do their jobs on the other,” she stated.
She said that the Assembly, which has responsibility for overseeing the Court’s administration, will meet next week, and will have the chance to engage in dialogue and consider amendments that could help address outstanding issues.
“The United States and Kenya have been friends and strong partners for half a century. We value the friendship and will continue working with the government and people of Kenya on issues of shared concern, including security against terror, economic development, environmental protection, the promotion of human rights, and justice,” she said.
She stated that the US abstained from the vote since the Court and its Assembly of States Parties are the right venues for considering the issues that Kenya and some AU members have raised.