Kenya’s blistering attack on the International Criminal Court

On Friday, Kenya’s permanent representative to the United Nations submitted to the Security Council a wide-ranging attack on the International Criminal Court cases against President Uhuru Kenyatta and Vice President William Ruto. The letter, provided by a reader, escalates significantly the long-standing tension between Kenya and the court. Some choice excerpts: The Kenya case that ...

On Friday, Kenya's permanent representative to the United Nations submitted to the Security Council a wide-ranging attack on the International Criminal Court cases against President Uhuru Kenyatta and Vice President William Ruto. The letter, provided by a reader, escalates significantly the long-standing tension between Kenya and the court. Some choice excerpts:

The Kenya case that was taken up by the Prosecutor of the ICC at his own behest, is falling apart in the face of a lack of evidence, withdrawal of witnesses and incompetent prosecution.… We are of the reasoned opinion that what is currently ongoing at the instant is an affront to the domestic policy and internal affairs of our sovereign Republic of Kenya. This inalienable right is being undermined and manipulated using different actors from within and without the territory of Kenya. As in the past, civil society bodies are currently being used by external dark forces to espouse their own policies using the Rome Statute as a conduit and the ICC as the manifestation of its interference.

The letter goes on to urge Security Council members to recognize the dangers of the ICC investigation for peace and security:

On Friday, Kenya’s permanent representative to the United Nations submitted to the Security Council a wide-ranging attack on the International Criminal Court cases against President Uhuru Kenyatta and Vice President William Ruto. The letter, provided by a reader, escalates significantly the long-standing tension between Kenya and the court. Some choice excerpts:

The Kenya case that was taken up by the Prosecutor of the ICC at his own behest, is falling apart in the face of a lack of evidence, withdrawal of witnesses and incompetent prosecution.… We are of the reasoned opinion that what is currently ongoing at the instant is an affront to the domestic policy and internal affairs of our sovereign Republic of Kenya. This inalienable right is being undermined and manipulated using different actors from within and without the territory of Kenya. As in the past, civil society bodies are currently being used by external dark forces to espouse their own policies using the Rome Statute as a conduit and the ICC as the manifestation of its interference.

The letter goes on to urge Security Council members to recognize the dangers of the ICC investigation for peace and security:

[It] is important and necessary that members of the UN Security Council not see themselves as disinterested observers of the ICC legal process, but rather recognize the danger that it poses to international peace and security in Eastern Africa to say nothing of the further damage to the credibility of the ICC. 

The sometimes rambling missive pulls together a host of critiques of the ICC, including ones from the Indian government, John Bolton, and the Heritage Foundation.

There are a few conciliatory notes. The Kenyan ambassador denies any intent to actively interfere with the investigation or withdraw from the court:

This delegation wishes to reiterate that we are not in any way interfering with the conduct of the cases before the Court. To the contrary the Government of Kenya will continue cooperating with the Court and being a State Party to the Rome Statute [and] is cognizant of the obligations placed on it. 

But the overall thrust of the letter suggests that the Kenyatta government may be moving into more direct confrontation with the court. This is not the first time the Kenyan authorities have implored the Security Council to intervene. In early 2011, Kenyan diplomats made a major push to secure a deferral of the investigation. That effort failed, in large part because the key Western governments on the council had no interest. The question now will be whether the prospect of an ugly confrontation between the court and a democratically elected government has changed the political landscape. 

Update: A Kenyan newspaper is now reporting on the letter. 

David Bosco is an associate professor at Indiana University's School of Global and International Studies. He is the author of books on the U.N. Security Council and the International Criminal Court, and is at work on a new book about governance of the oceans. Twitter: @multilateralist
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