Kenya edged closer to pulling out of the International Criminal Court (ICC) after a Bill seeking to strike the country out of membership of the Rome Statute was tabled in Parliament.
Even though the cases against six Kenyans, among them President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto, were dismissed by the ICC, the government has been keen to pull out of the Rome Statute.
This, according to the government, is to allow crimes against humanity cases that might come up in future to be handled locally.
The International Crimes (Repeal) Bill, by Bumula MP Boniface Otsiula, had to initially get the nod of the Justice and Legal Affairs Committee before its publication.
MPs are now expected to debate whether to end the country’s tenure as a signatory to the ICC. The Bill would make it harder for Kenyans to appear before The Hague-based court when they individually commit serious crimes against humanity.
President Kenyatta, in his remarks in Nakuru during a thanksgiving meeting on the dismissal of the case against Mr Ruto, said no Kenyan would be allowed to travel the “Hague route” in future.
ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda has issued an arrest warrant against three Kenyans for alleged witness interference in the former case against Mr Ruto, but Attorney-General Githu Muigai has insisted that the offences they are alleged to have committed can be dealt with by local courts.
“The principal object of the Bill is to repeal the International Crimes Act, 2008 in its entirety,” reads the Bill in the memorandum of objects and reasons.
The Bill extends from an emergency motion that Jubilee MPs approved in September 2013 to exit the ICC following summons to President Kenyatta to appear in court in person to answer to crimes against humanity charges at The Hague.
The motion was boycotted by MPs affiliated with opposition Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (Cord).
The ICC prosecutor in March dismissed the case against Mr Ruto and Mr Joshua arap Sang after ICC judges ruled that her case did not meet the evidentiary threshold to convict the two, but left a window open for the cases to be revived in future should the prosecution be able to gather fresh evidence.
The charges facing the six initial suspects referred to as the “Ocampo six” stemmed from violence that followed the declaration of presidential election results in 2007/08 when former President Mwai Kibaki was declared winner against his closest challenger Raila Odinga.
More than 1,000 people were killed and 650,000 others evicted from their homes.
Should the Bill be signed into law by President Kenyatta, Kenya will be the first country to withdraw from the ICC.