By Michelle Nichols*
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – As Africa urges the U.N. Security Council to take it more seriously, Rwanda plans to put to a vote this week a draft resolution to defer International Criminal Court trials of Kenya’s leaders for one year, despite lacking sufficient support.
The 15-member Security Council is split, diplomats say, over an African Union request to postpone the trials of President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto so they can deal with the aftermath of the Nairobi mall attack in September by the al Qaeda-linked group al Shabaab, in which at least 67 people died.
Kenyatta and Ruto face charges related to the violence after Kenya’s 2007 elections, in which 1,200 people died. Both deny the charges and have tried to have the cases adjourned or halted. Ruto’s trial began last month, while Kenyatta’s trial is due to start on February 5 after being delayed for a third time.
The cases have stirred an increasing backlash against the International Criminal Court from some African governments, which regard it as a tool of Western powers. A delegation of African ministers told the Security Council on October 31 that they believe their “requests are not given serious attention.”
U.N. Security Council member Rwanda circulated a draft resolution to approve a deferral among members earlier this month. The council discussed the issue on Tuesday and Rwandan U.N. Ambassador Eugene Gasana said members would vote on it this week.
Diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that during the closed door meeting Gasana told the council he planned to put the resolution to a vote on Friday.
China’s U.N. envoy, president of the council for November, insisted that the council does take African worries seriously, although he acknowledged the divisions over a deferral.
“The members attach importance to the concerns of the African countries,” said Chinese U.N. Ambassador Liu Jieyi after the meeting. “They do see this issue with utmost attention … But there’s no agreement on the thrust of the draft resolution.”
Security Council resolutions need nine votes and no vetoes by any of the five permanent members – Britain, Russia, China, France and the United States – to pass. Council diplomats said the deferral request did not have enough support to pass, even without a veto.
The Security Council can defer International Criminal Court proceedings for one year under Article 16 of the Rome Statute that established The Hague-based court a decade ago. Western and Latin American delegations are reluctant to support a deferral because of concerns it could lead to impunity, diplomats say.
The council turned down a previous deferral request by Kenya in 2011 and rejected a request in May for the cases to be terminated because the council had no such power.
The African Union also plans to raise its issues with the International Criminal Court at a November meeting of the Assembly of State Parties, which is made up of the 122 members of the court.