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Kenya court affirms March 2013 election date

The Court of Appeals in Kenya on Tuesday upheld a lower court's decision to set the date of the upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections for March 4, 2013. Four of the five judges sitting for the Court of Appeals, Judges Erastus Githinji, Kalpana Rawal, Hannah Okwengu and David Maranga, affirmed [Reuters report] the High Court's January decision while Judge Martha Koome dissented. Koome said that the High Court misinterpreted the country's constitution and that the polls should be held on or before January 15. Justices Isaac Lenaola, David Majanja and Mumbi Ngugi of the High Court held that the first election after the 2007 post-election violence and after the expiration of the current Parliament's term should be held in March. The Centre for Rights Education and Awareness (CREAW) and the Caucus for Women's Leadership [advocacy websites] had appealed the decision. They are also planning to appeal Tuesday's decision.

Kenya's upcoming election has been under international attention because it will be the first since the violence that followed the 2007 elections [JURIST news archive]. Four individuals are currently facing trial before the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] for fomenting the violence. Earlier this month, the ICC set [JURIST report] the trial dates for the two Kenyan post-election violence cases for next April. The trial of former Kenyan minister William Ruto and journalist Joshua Arap Sang [case materials] will begin on April 10, 2013, while the trial of Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta and former civil service chief Francis Muthaura [case materials] is to start on April 11, 2013. Last month the ICC expressed its desire to start the two Kenyan trials simultaneously [JURIST report] to avoid any appearance of bias in the March 2013 presidential election. Ruto is considered a leading candidate in the election which will take place March 4. Ruto and Sang are facing three counts of murder, forcible transfer and persecution while Kenyatta and Muthaura are facing five counts of orchestrating murder, rape, forcible transfer and persecution in the polls' aftermath. In May, the appeals chamber of the ICC rejected [JURIST report] the jurisdiction challenges in the two cases presented by the defense, clearing the way for trial. The defense lawyers had argued that the court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over the cases. The appeal stemmed from the pre-trial chamber's decision to confirm the charges [JURIST report] against the four men in January. The ICC claimed jurisdiction over the case despite Kenya's calls for dismissal [JURIST report]. The Kenyan government argued that it was capable of prosecuting the accused men domestically.

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