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Ruto deal sees African nations drop threat to quit ICC

27 November 2015, 19:00

The Hague - African nations have stepped back from a veiled threat to quit the International Criminal Court after Kenya won a minor concession in a row over the trial of its deputy president.

The ICC's Assembly of States parties wrapped up a nine-day meeting late Thursday agreeing to reaffirm the rule that recanted testimonies cannot be used in cases before the court.

Nairobi had lobbied intensely during the conference for the text to be included in its final report, and had renewed calls for charges against Deputy President William Ruto to be dropped.

Ruto is accused of crimes against humanity for his role in the violence which wracked Kenya in 2007-2008 after elections, leaving some 1,200 people dead.

The issue stirred anger in Kenya after judges allowed the ICC's chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda to use recanted testimonies to beef up her case against Ruto.

The ICC judges' decision is currently being appealed by Ruto's lawyers. It follows the collapse of the similar case against Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta a year ago.

In a tense week at the ICC annual conference, the African Union accused the ICC of unfairly targeting the continent, warning Africa's "common resolve should not be tested."

After closed door negotiations, the conference Thursday agreed to reaffirm its the ruling on recanted testimonies, but experts pointed out the final decision on Ruto's case remains in the hands of the ICC's judges.

In December 2014, Bensouda dropped charges against Ruto's boss and erstwhile bitter rival, Kenyatta, citing witness intimidation and a lack of cooperation on Nairobi's part.

Kenya says the cases are reopening old wounds and detract from other issues such as fighting a terror threat from neighbouring Somalia.

Kenyan Foreign Minister Amina Mohamed told AFP on Thursday that her government "never threatened to leave the ICC".

Kenyan foreign officials however in a tweet said Mohamed had "indicated that Kenya would have no option in the circumstances other than contemplate withdrawal," if Nairobi's request was not met.

The agreement to include the wording of the rule change in the meeting's final report "is not perfect, but we can live with it," Mohamed told AFP, with many pro-Kenyan supporters claiming victory.

The minor concession to Nairobi will have no direct impact on Ruto's case, experts said.

"It remains for ICC appeals judges to decide on the application of the rule," the Coalition for the International Criminal Court said on its website.

"The issue of the rule's application in the case against... Ruto is pending before the appeals chamber," Human Rights Watch senior legal expert Elizabeth Evenson added.

The agreement with Kenya at the conference "does not change that fact," she said.

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