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UN hopeful of a workable formula on Kenya and ICC

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The UN Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson. Photo/FILE

The UN Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson. Photo/FILE  NATION MEDIA GROUP

By PAMELLA SITTONI

Posted  Tuesday, October 29   2013 at  15:34

The UN Deputy Secretary General JAN ELIASSON spoke to PAMELLA SITTONI on issues ranging from the ICC to security in the Great Lakes region and Somalia.

Kenya is making crucial decisions regarding the ICC, and the country is in the process of withdrawing from the Rome Statute. What are your views on this?

Kenya was one of the founding state parties to the ICC and played an important role in bringing it about. It was one of the more supportive states of the ICC in Africa, and we hope the co-operation will continue.

We know that there have been difficulties in the relationship. ICC as you understand is an independent body and has its autonomy. We hope some of these issues can be dealt with.

We know that in November, there’s a meeting of the ICC state parties and we hope that some of the issues can be discussed. But we also hope that in these difficult times that Kenya is going through, we’ll be able to find a proper formula for continued co-operation with the ICC, and that we’ll have Kenya’s co-operation in this regard.

There is discussion about these issues, which is beyond the role of the Secretary General and myself, for instance, questions about deferral, which is in the hands of the Security Council. There will be a discussion on the deferral by the Security Council, so it’s for its member states to decide this issue.

Given your previous experience as president of the United Nations General Assembly, do you think Kenya’s situation qualifies for a deferral?

I cannot pronounce on that. There’s a delegation from the African Union going to New York. I know they’re in contact with members of the Security Council and they’ll be dealing with this in the Security Council at the end of this month. In the past, such deferrals have not been accepted. They have to be related to international peace and security under Chapter VII of the Charter.

But I understand that this time there is a reference to the aftermath of the Westgate tragedy that places particular responsibility on the President and the Deputy president. So, it’s up to the Security Council to decide whether such a deferral this time is possible.

What are your views on the very strong stand taken by the African Union on the ICC matter, and especially the leaders’ resolution that no sitting head of state should stand trial?

I am a believer in the international justice system that was established with the ICC. Any changes of this nature have to go through the Assembly of State Parties. It is a stand taken, and I understand the emotions among many African states.

But I think we should also recall that four out of the eight cases before the ICC that relate to the ICC are brought by African states themselves, two were brought to the Court by the Security Council, and the Kenyan cases are a result of Kofi Annan’s negotiations, which ended up with a referral to the ICC rather than going to national courts.

In the past, African states have been supportive of this. There have been some discussions about the degree of flexibility of the ICC, about which I’ve been informed by both Kenyan colleagues and others, and these are issues that have to be dealt with by the Court. In some cases, we have encouraged such flexibility from our side, but we fully respect the independent nature of the ICC.

But there’s much at stake. We need the support of the African nations to this very important aspect of international justice. If we take a step back from this it would be leading to serious consequences. So I hope that everybody shows maximum innovative approaches to deal with this situation so that we don’t have this crisis.

Well, the African leaders say ICC is a racist court, out to get Africans. Do you see their point?
No, I wouldn’t accept that. We have an African prosecutor, African judges, cases have been brought by African states to the court; I hope we can avoid seeing this in the context of racism.

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