Kenya trials: Africans push deferral

The African Union asked the Security Council last week to postpone the trials of Kenyatta and Ruto.

Kenya's newly elected President Uhuru Kenyatta waves to faithfuls after attending a mass on March 10, 2013 at the Martyrs of Uganda Catholic church during a thanksgiving service in Gatundu, Kiambu. Picture: AFP.

UNITED NATIONS - Rwanda, Togo and Morocco circulated among UN Security Council members on Friday a draft resolution to defer the International Criminal Court trials of Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto for one year.

The African Union asked the Security Council last week to postpone the trials of Kenyatta and Ruto so they can deal with the aftermath of the Nairobi mall attack by al Qaeda-linked group al Shabaab, in which at least 67 people were killed in September.

Kenyatta and Ruto face charges related to the violence after Kenya's 2007 elections, in which 1,200 people died. Both deny the charges and have tried to have the cases adjourned or halted. Ruto's trial started last month, while Kenyatta's trial is due to start on February 5 after being delayed for a third time.

The Security Council can defer International Criminal Court proceedings for one year under Article 16 of the Rome Statute that established The Hague-based court a decade ago. The council would need to adopt a resolution to take that step.

"We are mandated by the African Union to ensure the deferral is granted," Rwandan UN Ambassador Eugene Gasana told Reuters in a statement on Friday. "We have a draft resolution ... we do hope and wish that it will be supported by all council members."

But the 15-member Security Council, which heard an impassioned plea for a deferral from a delegation of African ministers during an informal meeting on Thursday, is split. Diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the United States stated on Thursday that it was opposed to a deferral.

A resolution needs nine votes and no veto by any of the five permanent members - the United States, Russia, Britain, China and France. Council diplomats said there was not enough support for a deferral of the Kenyan cases to be approved.

Some U.N. diplomats have noted that the council had already turned down a previous deferral request by Kenya in 2011 and rejected a request in May for the cases to be terminated because the council had no such power.

The Kenyan cases have caused a growing backlash against the International Criminal Court from some African governments, which regard it as a tool of Western powers used to unfairly target Africans.

The African Union also plans to raise its issues with the International Criminal Court at a November meeting of the Assembly of State Parties, which is made up of the 122 members of the court.