Nairobi, Kenya: Britain has received a cold reception from Kenya to its proposal that President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto attend their trials at The Hague through video links.
And in Parliament, the Chairman of the Committee on Defence and Foreign Relations Ndung’u Gethenji (Tetu) Tuesday got the nod from National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi for MPs go into an emergency sitting to discuss the mode and status of Uhuru’s trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Britain’s proposed amendment is being interpreted as designed to scupper Kenya’s backing of the African Union push for immunity from prosecution for sitting heads of state.
The tough line by Kenya signals a confrontational stance between the country and Britain at the ICC conference today.
But the British High Commission in Nairobi refused to be drawn into the issue.
“You are still harking back to last week and we have moved on,” said John Bradshaw, head of communications at the British High Commission in Nairobi. “I can only confirm that we are tabling the amendment at the ASP on video conferencing and we hope that all parties will consider the amendments constructively,” Bradshaw added.
In Government circles the proposal is seen as an attempt to torpedo Kenya’s quest to stop the trial of President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto at the Assembly of States Parties to the ICC.
“No one wants what the British are offering. No one asked them to present it and they should keep it to themselves because that is not what Kenya and Africa are taking to the State Parties meeting,” a top official said on condition of anonymity Tuesday.
“When Kenya sought Britain’s help at the UNSC, they not only declined but also incited Guatemala and Argentina to ensure Africa didn’t get the nine votes,” claimed the Kenyan official.
Britain, which is among the eight UNSC members that abstained from the vote that sank Kenya’s deferral request, has proposed an amendment so Uhuru and Ruto are not required to be present in The Hague courtrooms.
“A number of amendments have been tabled, including one by the United Kingdom on presence through video technology,” Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant of Britain told the UNSC on Friday, while explaining that the Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute meeting is the right forum to address Kenya’s concerns.
The ICC has also made arrangements for a possible trial without the Kenyan leaders being physically present at The Hague.
“Additionally, in the Kenya cases Chambers envisage having the accused follow the hearings via video teleconferencing (VTC) from Nairobi,” provided the 2014 ICC budget proposal is approved at the conference next week, says Britain.
Its proposal is seen as a spoiler by Kenya as it waters down an earlier protest against having the two leaders confined in The Hague courtroom and can divide the 122 members.
“In a way it is a very intelligent political move on the part of the Britain. They have kind of pulled the rug from under the feet of Kenya, which is left with nowhere to stand,” said Paul Mwangi, an advocate of the High Court.
Mwangi, who served as former Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s advisor on legal affairs, explained that some nations are likely to be persuaded to support the UK’s proposal, viewing it as a compromise. “I don’t see the blanket immunity sought passing. The international court was created to deal with impunity and you can’t deal with impunity by granting immunity,” Mwangi added.
But the Kenyan official said Africa will prevail at the conference after the setback at the UNSC where the support of seven members was insufficient to secure a deferral of ICC cases.
Eight UNSC members including the UK abstained from the vote, denying the resolution the mandatory nine votes required to enforce it.
“At the conference Africa has the support of Asian members and is strongly lobbying to get the backing of 81 members needed to amend the Rome Statute,” the official added.
“The decision by some permanent members of the UNSC to abstain from voting on the AU request for deferral was a disappointment,” Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed said after the vote.
Kenya is pressing amendments to shield sitting presidents or anyone who can act in that capacity from prosecution, take away the power to sanction deferral from the United Nations Security Council and to review how the prosecutor investigates cases.
Kenya is not pleased with the video technology concession because it does not stop the president from appearing in The Hague.
This is because the ruling in October by Trial Chamber V (B) granted President Uhuru exception from continuous attendance conditionally.-standardmedia