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How ICC trial weakens war on al Shabaab

08 October 2014, 19:05

Nairobi - An East Africa's mediation bloc on Wednesday called for the delay of the trial of Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta to allow his government to battle Al-Shabaab militants who still pose security threat in the region.

The Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) Executive Secretary Mahboub Maalim said the International Criminal Court (ICC) should post the proceedings to allow the East Africa region fight insurgents from Somalia.

"We believe that this prosecution, should it be needed, must take place at the end of Kenyatta's presidency. The evidence and witness statements can be taken and safely stowed away until then, " said Maalim in a statement issued in Nairobi.

Maalim, who also travelled to The Hague on Wednesday to show solidarity with Kenyatta, said the Horn of Africa is a critical theatre in the war against global terrorism.

"The ICC must act now to postpone these proceedings in the best interests of this global battle and the immediate struggle for peace and security in our region of East Africa and the Greater Horn," he said.

Kenyan forces entered Somalia in Oct. 16, 2011 to push back Al- Shabaab militants, which used to control large sections of southern and central Somalia. The militants are blamed by Nairobi for a series of cross-border kidnappings, grenade and bomb attacks.

Since then, there has been a string of attacks by Al-Shabaab militants and their sympathizers despite the efforts to restrain the insurgents.

Maalim said the trial proceedings should not be used to weaken Kenya just a year since Al-Shabaab killed 67 people in the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, and just one month since the interception and prevention of a major terrorist attack aimed at Kampala.

"I am here to say that this is no time to weaken a country and weaken a region by removing its president for trial," Maalim said, adding that the ICC status conference comes just two days since a major Somali and AMISOM offensive in Southern Somalia drove Al- Shabaab from their final holdout.

Read also: Uhuru: Nothing left in ICC case

"But for now, we are in the midst of a critical battle to beat the Al-Shabaab terrorists in Somalia and preserve the security of the region by preventing any further spread of this radical disease," he said.

He commended president Kenyatta, currently chairman of the East African Community and Rapporteur of IGAD, on his display of respect for the rule of law.

Maalim said Kenyatta has been summoned to answer charges of which he is entirely innocent until proven guilty, and he has taken unprecedented steps within the constitution of his country to attend.

"Instead, my presence here carries a single intent: to represent the need to preserve the collective strength of our region in our ongoing battle against radical insurgent terrorism in East Africa, a region that faces a clear and present threat to our security," he said.

Maalim's remarks came before the ICC Trial Chamber V (b) convened status conference on Wednesday to discuss the "critical juncture" of the case.

During status conference, judges are not addressing the veracity of the evidentiary threshold. This can only happen when the trial begins.

International Center for Policy and Conflict (ICPC) Executive Director Wainaina Ndung'u said the chamber will be seeking clarity on the progress of implementing July 29 decisions ordering the government to provide the prosecution with eight categories of records relating to Kenyatta or companies and third parties associated with him.

"The Trial Chamber will hear both sides and later issue its decision. According to prosecution, making available this information will determine whether the prosecution will proceed with the case or not," Ndung'u said.

Ndungu said the status conference will be "critical juncture" because the Chamber will decide on two things - indefinite adjournment of the trial as requested by the prosecution or terminate the cause which the defense is demanding

The prosecution said the evidence available is yet to meet the "beyond reasonable doubt" threshold necessary, and wants full government of Kenya cooperation in making available certain information as ordered by the Court.

Defence has been categorical that it is the responsibility of the prosecution to gather evidence against the accused.

The Defence has applied three times for the case to be permanently suspended or issue a permanent stay, but judges have declined all applications.

Judges said issuing a permanent stay of proceedings was an extreme measure to be taken to protect the rights of an accused person to a fair trial. This is not the situation in the Kenyatta case.

- Xinhua

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