International Criminal Court: Africa not a Soft Target anymore

icc

The International Criminal Court is to decide whether to suspend its trial of Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta because of a lack of cooperation by Kenyan authorities.  Judges said they would hold a hearing in the coming weeks on a possible reprimand for Kenya after prosecutors told the court on Wednesday that “pure obstructionism” was wrecking any chance of pursuing Kenyatta on charges that he orchestrated post-election violence six years ago.

The case is a test of the authority and credibility of the Western-backed court, which has seen several cases collapse, secured just one conviction in 11 years, and prompted bitter complaints from Africa that it is being singled out as a soft target.  The case against Kenyatta has been undermined by the withdrawal of a string of witnesses who prosecutors say have been intimidated or blackmailed, as well as other failures to secure documentary evidence.

In a January 31 court filing, prosecutors said a “climate of fear” had weakened their case and that judges should rule that Kenya was in breach of its obligation to help investigators.  They told the court they needed access to Kenyatta’s financial records, among other things, to see whether he had indirectly paid large sums of money to the perpetrators of the violence, in which 1,200 people died and thousands were driven from their homes.

Kenyatta, who is head of both state and government, denies the charge of crimes against humanity. His lawyers say the prosecution is now merely trying to blame Kenya for its own failure to build a case…

While Western powers led the push to establish the court and are keen to support it, they are also anxious to maintain relations with Kenya, seen as a key ally in the battle against militant Islamism in neighboring Somalia.The case grew more controversial throughout Africa after Kenyatta, the son of his country’s founder, won last year’s presidential election on a joint ticket with William Ruto, his deputy, who is on trial on similar but separate charges.  Kenya says the court risks destabilizing east Africa if it presses on with the charges.

Excerpt, BY THOMAS ESCRITT, Court to decide whether to suspend Kenyatta trial over “obstructionism”, Reuters, Feb. 6, 2014

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