“It is clear that the assembly’s vote was designed to send a political message against the ICC on the eve of the start of the trial,” said Elizabeth Evenson, a senior counsel in Human Rights Watch’s international justice program. “It is more of the same from Kenya’s political establishment. Every time the ICC inches forward to deliver justice for victims of the post-election violence, Kenya’s leaders and lawmakers scramble to throw up roadblocks.”
Despite the vote, Kenya’s government is still required to send a formal notice of withdrawal to the U.N. secretary general, a process that could take a year or longer. It’s unclear whether this will happen. In December 2010, the parliament had voted for withdrawal from the ICC, but the government did not follow through. A pullout would not stop Kenyatta’s and Ruto’s cases from going forward, said ICC officials, because the decision would not apply to ongoing trials.
But there is concern that both men could decide against cooperating with the ICC, analysts said. A recent opinion poll showed that Kenyans’ support for the court had dropped from nearly 60 percent to less than 40 percent from late 2011 to mid-2013.
“It will cause nervousness in Western capitals in terms of what it says about Kenya’s own commitment to furthering human rights,” said Tom Maliti, a trial monitor funded by the Open Society Foundations, a human rights group. “It will create nervousness because it raises questions on whether the president and deputy president will honor the trial and its obligations when they come due.”
On Sunday, Kenyatta warned that the ICC must not require him and Ruto to be at The Hague at the same time to attend hearings.
“If you want us to continue to cooperate with the ICC process, let me make it crystal clear that when Ruto is at The Hague, I will be here, and when I am at The Hague, he will be here,” the president told supporters at a prayer rally, according to the Reuters news agency.
Discontent with ICC
Kenya’s defiance speaks to a growing discontent with the ICC across Africa. In May, the African Union accused the ICC of “race hunting” and declared that the court had unfairly targeted Africans. Driving the allegations is the fact that the court has prosecuted only Africans since its inception. The African Union issued a resolution calling upon the ICC to drop its cases against Ruto, Kenyatta and a third defendant, Joshua arap Sang, a former radio personality accused of coordinating attacks through coded messages in his radio broadcasts. Sang’s trial also begins Tuesday.