New schedule set for Kenyatta war crimes trial

Despite massive pressure to stop the prosecution of Kenya’s recently elected President, Uhuru Kenyatta, the International Criminal Court (ICC) today set a new date for the trial against the state leader. Mr Kenyatta is accused of crimes against humanity.

Today, the ICC set the new date of for the start-up of the trial of President Kenyatta. The trial is now scheduled to commence on 12 November this year.

Originally, the international court had planned to start the criminal proceedings against the Kenyan President already in three weeks, on 9 July. But the defence lawyers of Mr Kenyatta had requested more time to prepare the trial and search for evidence.

Mr Kenyatta is charged with five counts of crimes against humanity, “consisting of murder, deportation or forcible transfer, rape, persecution and other inhumane acts allegedly committed during the post-election violence in Kenya in 2007-2008,” according to the court, based in The Hague. More than 1.000 persons died during the violent clashes.

The continued efforts to charge the Kenyan leader by the ICC are however causing enhanced frustration in Kenya and other African countries. The ICC is increasingly seen as a court only targeting Africans, and by going after Mr Kenyatta, the court even is seen as destabilising the Kenyan democracy.

While the Kenyan parliament originally had welcomed an ICC engagement in looking into the organisation of the election violence, this year’s successful holding of a peaceful election have massively turned the public opinion. The ICC is seen as undermining the democratic choice made by the majority of Kenyans and the trial is increasingly seen as illegitimate.

The Kenyan diplomacy has also been successful in convincing several other African countries that the proceedings against Mr Kenyatta should be dropped.

While the Kenyan diplomatic campaign has some success in fellow African countries, the ICC war crimes charges are causing problems for Mr Kenyatta’s relations with other world leaders. European and American leaders are still shying away from high-profiled meetings with the new Kenyan leader as long as the charges against him are held onto.

This is because the accusations against President Kenyatta indeed are grave and are not followed up upon by Kenyan courts. Together with three other Kenyans, including current Vice-President William Ruto, Mr Kenyatta is supposed to have orchestrated the ethnic violence that followed the 2007 election. The ICC prosecution holds they contributed to plan and ignite the violence.

So far, Mr Kenyatta has maintained his innocence and promised to cooperate fully with the ICC, where he also plans to make an appearance if requested. This puts him in contrast to Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who refuses any cooperation and as thus is considered a fugitive by the world community, which strongly restricts his travelling. Mr Kenyatta, on the other hand, faces no sanctions or travel restrictions.

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