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Prosecutor wants gag on Ruto discussing case at ICC meet

20 November 2013, 21:24

The Hague - International Criminal Court prosecutor Fatou Bensouda on Wednesday sought a gag order against Deputy President William Ruto discussing his case at a meeting of court member states, the latest battleground for African leaders accusing the court of racism.

The annual meeting of the ICC's Assembly of States Parties (ASP) in The Hague began on Wednesday and is turning into a forum for African leaders to vent their frustration with the world's only permanent court for crimes against humanity and war crimes.

Ruto should not discuss his or Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta's crimes against humanity cases at the ASP meeting, where hs is expected to head the Kenyan delegation, Bensouda said in an urgent request to the court.

The ASP is on Thursday to debate whether there should be immunity from ICC prosecution for heads of state and government, at the behest of the African Union which has accused the court of racism because all its current prosecutions involve Africans.

The meeting will also consider changes in procedure -- such as allowing defendants to appear by video conference -- which could ease the conditions for the trials of the Kenyan leaders.

Bensouda also called for the court to reconsider its excusal of Ruto from his trial so he could fulfil his constitutional duties, as he would in fact be attending the ASP, which is not a constitutional requirement.

The Hague-based court has already reminded Ruto not to discuss the merits of his ongoing case in the press, and Bensouda said she wanted clarification that this also applied to discussing the case at the ASP.

"The prosecution notes the apparent conflict of interest between Ruto's public position as leader of the Kenyan delegation and his personal position as an accused in proceedings before the court," Bensouda's request said.

"The prosecution therefore requests that the chamber clarify that is prior rulings with respect to public statement will also apply to any statement sand discussions by Ruto before or at the ASP," it added.

The UN Security Council last week rejected an African demand to suspend Ruto and Kenyatta's ICC trials for one year.

The two are accused of fomenting political unrest after a 2007 election in which more than 1,100 people died.

The draft resolution said the court case is "distracting and preventing" Kenyatta and Ruto from carrying out their duties.

It took up African Union complaints that the two should be left to handle Kenya's role in battling Islamist militants in Somalia and the aftermath of September's mall attack in Nairobi, which left 67 dead.

African leaders frequently complain that the ICC discriminates against their continent.

Western diplomats and activists see the campaign to halt the proceedings as political and, more generally by countries opposed to the ICC, to discredit the court.

The United States, Britain and France said at the UN last week that Africa's complaints should be put to the ASP meeting.

Ruto's trial has started, while that of Kenyatta is scheduled to get underway February 5 after being delayed three times.




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