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AI: UN Security Council must not defer trial of Kenya president

Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] on Wednesday urged [press release] the UN Security Council not to defer the International Criminal Court (ICC) trial [materials] of Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta despite mounting political pressure. A draft resolution seeking the deferral was circulated earlier this month by Rwanda, a Security Council member, and will be put to a vote on Friday. In response to the call from the African Union (AU) [official website] to suspend the trial of Kenyatta in view of his official status as president of Kenya, AI has compiled a series of recommendations [text, PDF] which will be given for the twelfth session of the Assembly of States Parties [materials] beginning on November 20. At the request of the AU, the Assembly will include a special segment to discuss the indictment of sitting political leaders and possible consequences on peace and stability. In its recommendation, AI has stated that state parties should insist that Kenyatta's trial proceed without political interference and urge the AU not to employ threats of non-cooperation as a tactic. Tawanda Hondora, Deputy Director of law and policy at AI, stated that the victims of the post-election violence should not be forced to wait any longer for justice and that "it would be a shame if Security Council members prioritized the personal interests of political leaders over those victims of crimes against humanity." He went on to express the concern that deferring the trial would set a dangerous precedent for international justice, allowing political interests to impact future trials.

Kenyatta is charged as an indirect co-perpetrator with five counts of crimes against humanity allegedly committed in Kenya during the 2007-2008 post-election violence, which led to the deaths of at least 1,100 people and the displacement of more than 600,000. The changes include murder, deportation or forcible transfer, rape, persecution and other inhumane acts. In October Kenyatta applied for a permanent stay of the proceedings [JURIST report] in his case before the ICC, claiming that the prosecution's corrupt witnesses and intermediaries would make a fair trial impossible and requesting that the Trial Chamber hold an evidential hearing before the start of his trial. Also in October the ICC ruled that the president would not need to be present for his whole trial, prompting the prosecutor for the ICC to request [JURIST reports] that the court either reconsider its decision or allow the Office of the Prosecutor to appeal the trial chamber's decision up to the appeals chamber. The upcoming trial prompted Kenya's National Assembly in September to approve a motion [JURIST report] to leave the ICC, an action scholars say, if taken, could be detrimental [JURIST op-eds] to the African people.

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