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UN Rejects Africa Bid to Halt Kenya Leaders’ ICC Trials

The U.N. Security Council refused Friday to grant an African request to delay by one year the International Criminal Court prosecution of Kenya‘s leaders for the deadly violence following general elections in 2007.

The council’s denial of delay emphasized a widening rift between Africa and the West, according to China’s news agency Xinhua.

The bid failed to get the necessary nine votes for approval and no veto by any of the five veto-wielding permanent members of Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States. Eight abstained. Azerbaijan, China, Morocco, Pakistan, Russia, Rwanda and Togo voted “yes.”

The 15-member council is empowered to grant one-year delays in trials at the International Criminal Court, where the Kenyan president, Uhuru Kenyatta, and his deputy, William Ruto, face charges of crimes against humanity stemming from deadly political violence in Kenya six years ago, the New York Times reports.

The two men have denied the charges and sought to postpone the trials, calling them a distraction from Kenya’s efforts to deal with a security crisis in the aftermath of the terrorist attack by Somali Islamists on a Nairobi shopping mall in September.

But the Kenya trials also have become a point of tension between the African Union and the International Criminal Court (ICC), the Hague-based judicial authority that has focused on prosecuting accusations against African political figures.

A growing number of African countries, including some that signed a treaty giving the court jurisdiction, have expressed unhappiness with the court and have hinted at possibly withdrawing from the treaty.

Rwanda’s ambassador to the United Nations, Eugène-Richard Gasana, called the outcome shameful and said, “Let it be written today in history that the Security Council failed Kenya and Africa on this issue.”

Kenya’s ambassador, Macharia Kamau, said: “Reason and the law have been thrown out the window. Fear and distrust has been allowed to prevail.”

Kamau and other African ambassadors who attended the vote also expressed anger afterward in remarks to reporters outside the council chambers. These included Tekeda Alemu of Ethiopia, the nation that holds the current presidency of the African Union. “We feel this is a manifestation of lack of trust in Africa and we are very disappointed,” Alemu said.

The African Union has planned a summit meeting for this month, and there has been speculation its members will urge Kenyatta and Ruto to defy the court by not attending their trials, the Times reported.

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