March 12, 2011 / 7:00 AM / 8 years ago

UN council to meet with Kenya about violence cases

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The U.N. Security Council will meet next week to discuss Kenya’s request to postpone International Criminal Court cases related to Kenyan post-election violence, China’s U.N. envoy said on Friday.

Kenya's President Mwai Kibaki arrives at Bole International Airport in preparation for the African Union Summit in Addis Ababa, January 31, 2009.REUTERS/Irada Humbatova

But Security Council diplomats said it was unlikely the 15-nation body would agree to a deferral of the ICC process.

In December, ICC chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo named senior politicians and a former police chief among six people suspected of orchestrating violence that followed the disputed 2007 presidential election. All six were summoned on Tuesday to appear before the ICC on April 7 for an initial appearance.

Chinese Ambassador Li Baodong, president of the Security Council this month, said Kenya had asked for a meeting to discuss the ICC cases. The council has agreed to meet informally with the Kenyans, he said.

“The council ... decided to have an interactive dialogue next Wednesday afternoon,” Li told reporters. “The Kenyan side and also a representative of the AU (African Union) will participate in the consultations.”

President Mwai Kibaki plans to ask the council to defer the trials for a year and then have the cases heard in Nairobi, a plan backed by the African Union but opposed by Prime Minister Raila Odinga, who wants ICC trials.

Diplomats on the council, however, said Kenya had little support for a move to halt the ICC process.

“We’re happy to meet with the Kenyans and discuss it with them,” a Western diplomat said. “But I don’t know of a single council member who actively supports the idea of a deferral.”

The United States, Britain, France — all permanent veto-wielding council members — are among those that oppose deferring the proceedings, envoys said.

The Security Council cannot halt ICC proceedings though it has the power to suspend them for up to 12 months. It would be up to The Hague-based ICC, not the Security Council, to decide whether Kenya would be able to credibly prosecute those suspected of being behind the clashes.

More than 1,220 people died and 350,000 were displaced in the violence, severely denting Kenya’s reputation for stability in a turbulent region.

In the peace deal that Kibaki and Odinga signed to end the fighting, they agreed that perpetrators of the violence would face justice. A commission of inquiry was formed to investigate the violence and recommended those behind it should be tried in Kenya or The Hague.

Kenyan lawmakers blocked moves to set up a local tribunal to try the suspects. The matter was referred to the ICC, which gave Kenya time to set up a tribunal but took up the cases when the country failed to do so.

Prominent among the six suspects are Finance Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta, son of Kenya’s founding father Jomo Kenyatta, and William Ruto, the Higher Education Minister who has been suspended to fight a corruption case.

The six suspects say they will obey the court summons.

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