Kenya’s foreign minister has said her country will press ahead with moves to have the International Criminal Court’s founding document amended to grant sitting heads of state immunity from prosecution.
Speaking at the ICC’s Assembly of States Parties’ annual meeting in The Hague, Netherlands, Amina Mohamed said on Thursday that Kenya wants a special meeting of the assembly to discuss amending the Rome Statute that created the court.
Her comments came nearly a week after a UN Security Council resolution seeking to postpone the trial of Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto for a year was rejected.
Kenyatta and Ruto face charges of crimes against humanity at the ICC over their alleged role in fomenting post-election violence in 2007-8 which killed 1,100 people.
Ruto is already on trial at the court in The Hague, the court’s headquarters, while Kenyatta is scheduled to go on trial in February 2014.
Both men insist they are innocent of involvement in the violence that displaced 300,000.
“At the end of the day, our goal is to make sure that the Rome Statute recognises what we all know to be true – that heads of state and government can only be tried after their terms of service come to an end,” Mohamed said.
“That’s something that happens in all our countries. It is something that has never failed us. There is no reason to change that. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
Thirty-four African states are signatories to the Rome Statute and the ICC cases have all involved Africans, sparking criticism by African leaders that the court is racist. Most of the cases, however, have been referred to the ICC by African states themselves as they do not have competent courts to deliver justice that meets international standards.
Kenya is engaged in a diplomatic push to halt the cases, arguing the country – and the volatile east African region – needs strong leadership as it battles al-Qaeda-linked terrorists in neighbouring Somalia.
At the Hague meeting, Kenya’s attorney-general, Githu Muigai, said that if the trial went ahead, the entire region could be destabilised.
“Kenya is the lynchpin in the peace and security of more than 250 million people from Djibouti to the eastern Congo. Kenya is one of the most important pillars in eastern Africa” in the fight against terror, drug trafficking and piracy, Muigai said.
He stressed: “It is not in our humble view a country … the international community should play Russian roulette with.”
The United States, Britain and Israel have long had close military and intelligence ties with Nairobi.
Kenya plays a major part in regional military efforts to stamp out al-Qaeda-linked fighters who have turned Somalia into a major global jihadist hub.
The al-Shabab group carried out an attack on a Nairobi mall that killed at least 67 people in September in retaliation for Kenya’s involvement in Somalia, which began in October 2011.