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ICC postpones trial of Kenya president

The International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] on Thursday postponed [text, PDF] the trial of Kenyan President Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta [official website; JURIST news archive] until February, vacating the previously established November commencement date. The chamber expressed its regret [press release] that repeated trial adjournments have been necessary, urging both the defense and prosecution to accelerate their preparation so that further postponements could be avoided. This delay is not enough however, according to the African Union (AU) [official website], which is seeking a one-year deferral [AP report]. The requested delay is necessary, the AU says, so that they may continue to deal with the aftermath of the Nairobi mall attack, a terrorist attack by the Somali Islamic group al-Shabab [BBC backgrounder] which resulted in at least 62 deaths and 175 injured persons [Kenya Red Cross fact sheet, PDF]. Although the UN Security Council possesses the ability to defer a case for a year under the Rome statute, it has never done so before.

Kenyatta is charged [JURIST report], as an indirect co-perpetrator, with five counts of crimes against humanity allegedly committed in Kenya during the 2007-2008 post-election violence that led to the deaths of at least 1,100 people and the displacement of more than 600,000. These charges [press release], which consist of murder, deportation or forcible transfer, rape, persecution and other inhumane acts, were confirmed in January 2012. 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, according to scholars.

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