Kenya denies urging African nations to quit Hague court

Reuters News
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Posted: Oct 09, 2013 12:05 PM

NAIROBI (Reuters) - Kenya denied on Wednesday that it was lobbying other African states to pull out of the International Criminal Court, the Hague tribunal that has put its president on trial.

Leaders at an African summit on Saturday will discuss relations with the ICC, which has only prosecuted Africans. Kenya's foreign minister denied Nairobi was urging countries to pull out and played down any prospect of united action.

"It is actually quite naive to think that 34 countries can come together with the sole aim of moving out of the Rome Statute (that established the ICC)," Amina Mohamed told reporters in Nairobi.

"We have not asked anybody to support a walkout."

Kenya's parliament is demanding the government quit the ICC, and many other Africans have voiced frustration that it has so far only charged people from their continent.

But officials from several African states, including continental powers Nigeria and South Africa, have suggested there is no consensus to leave the court.

An African Union official said when the summit was announced in September that leaders would decide whether they would withdraw and said Kenya had been lobbying for that.

Mohamed said Africa's relationship with the court would be one of several issues discussed at the summit in Addis Ababa.

Senior ICC official Herman von Hebel told a news briefing at The Hague that any withdrawal would send the message that a country's citizens did not deserve the human rights protection that the court provides.

"This is not a trial of Africa," he said over the chants of Ivorian protesters on the street below who had gathered in support of former President Laurent Gbagbo, who is on trial in The Hague.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy, William Ruto, are charged at the ICC with fomenting ethnic killings after an election in 2007. They deny the charges. Ruto's trial has already begun and Kenyatta's is due to start on November 12.

In May, the African Union backed a request by Kenya for the trials to be referred back to Kenya, on the grounds that the ICC hearings risked raising ethnic tensions and destabilising the economy.

(Reporting by Edmund Blair and Thomas Escritt; Editing by James Macharia and Robin Pomeroy)