IN a surprise move, Kenya’s Parliament was recalled Tuesday to debate ending the country’s membership of the International Criminal Court (ICC).
The move came ahead of trial of Kenya’s Vice President William Ruto on crimes against humanity, starting there next week.
According to a report by Agence France Presse (AFP), Parliamentary Deputy Speaker Joyce Laboso issued the order for the “special sitting of the assembly”, with parliament for tomorrow.
However, even should Kenya choose to leave the ICC – the first country potentially to do so – it would not affect upcoming trials since legal proceedings have already started.
The ICC trial opened yesterday against Ruto with three counts of crimes against humanity being slammed against him for allegedly organising 2007-2008 post-election unrest that killed at least 1,100 people and displaced more than 600,000.
Ruto’s trial is coming about two months ahead of that of President Uhuru Kenyatta, who faces five charges of crimes against humanity, including murder, rape, persecution, deportation and other inhumane acts.
Lawmakers are expected to debate and vote on a possible departure from the Rome Statute of the ICC, following a request from the senate’s majority leader Kithure Kindiki.
“Any law in this country or internationally like the Rome Statute can be repealed and can be amended,” said Asman Kamama, one of at least 30 lawmakers supporting Kindiki’s petition.
“It is not cast in stone and we want to be the trail blazers in the continent.”
The Jubilee Coalition of Kenyatta and Ruto dominate both houses of Kenya’s parliament.
The Hague-based court was set up in 2002 to try the world’s worst crimes, and countries voluntarily signed up to join.
Lawmakers will debate a motion on whether to pull out from the ICC, but any actual withdrawal requires the submission of a formal request to the United Nations, a process that would take at least a year.
“Withdrawing from the Rome Statute has no impact on cases already open, it does not affect investigations, proceedings or trials which have already started,” ICC spokesman Fadi El Abdallah said.
Kenyatta’s trial opens in The Hague on November 12.
Both Kenyatta and Ruto have said they will cooperate fully with the court. They deny the charges against them.