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Kenya parliament debates withdrawal from ICC

Kenya's parliament debated ending the country's membership in the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website; JURIST backgrounder] on Tuesday, ahead of the impending trial of Vice President William Ruto and others. Parliamentary Deputy Speaker Joyce Laboso ordered a special sitting [AFP report] of the assembly for Thursday. Even if Kenya votes to leave the ICC, it would not affect the trials of Ruto, as those proceedings have already begun. Additionally, although parliament is expected to debate and vote on departing the Rome Statute of the ICC [text], but withdrawal requires formally submitting a request to theUN and would take at least a year. Kenya would be the first country to leave the ICC. On Tuesday, the ICC trial opens for Ruto on three counts of crimes against humanity that led to the deaths of at least 1,100 people and displacement of over 600,000. On November 12, the trial of President Uhuru Kenyatta [official website] on five charges of crimes against humanity will open in The Hague.

In July the ICC rejected [JURIST report] a request by Kenyan officials to change the forum of their trials to Kenya or Tanzania. The defense request was filed in January under articles 3(3) and 62 of the Rome Statute and Rule 100 of the ICC Rules and Procedures of Evidence [text, PDF], which provide for in situ hearings. Kenyatta and Ruto's trials were recently postponed [JURIST report] until the fall. African foreign ministers requested [JURIST report] that current Kenyatta and Vice President Ruto be tried in Kenya after the Kenyan Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) [advocacy website] released a report [JURIST report] connecting Kenyatta and Ruto to the post-election violence. Earlier in May Kenya's ambassador to the UN requested [JURIST report] that the charges against Kenyatta be dismissed. Even with charges for crimes against humanity pending against him, Kenyatta was able to win a controversial election [JURIST report] to the presidency in March. Kenyatta was sworn in as the country's fourth president following a ruling [JURIST report] from Kenya's Supreme Court that the election results were in fact valid.

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