ICC prosecutor: Kenya must prove it could handle Kenyatta case

AMSTERDAM Thu May 30, 2013 9:57am EDT

President-elect of Kenya Uhuru Kenyatta waves to his supporters in front of a church in his hometown Gatundu March 10, 2013. REUTERS/Marko Djurica

President-elect of Kenya Uhuru Kenyatta waves to his supporters in front of a church in his hometown Gatundu March 10, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Marko Djurica

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AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - The International Criminal Court's (ICC) chief prosecutor said on Thursday that Kenya must prove it would "genuinely" conduct proceedings against President Uhuru Kenyatta for alleged crimes against humanity if it wants the court to drop his case.

Kenya has asked the tribunal to refer its case against Kenyatta back to the east African country, a move that has been backed by other African Union nations.

Kenyatta and his deputy, William Ruto, are facing trial at the ICC, accused of masterminding ethnic bloodshed in post-election violence five years ago that killed more than 1,200 people. Both deny the charges.

Kenyatta's trial is due to begin in July. Both he and Ruto have promised to cooperate with the ICC.

"A state wishing to conduct national proceedings has to satisfy the judges that it is genuinely conducting proceedings against the same persons for the same crimes," ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said.

Kenyan officials concede the country has not in the past had the ability to try suspects accused of crimes against humanity, but say its reformed judiciary now does.

The country is in the process of setting up special courts for trying crimes against humanity.

"The office of the prosecutor stands ready to engage in any legal debate regarding its ongoing cases in Kenya," Bensouda said.

The prosecutor's office has always insisted the ICC trial of Kenyatta must proceed. The Hague-based court has no jurisdiction over crimes if national authorities are carrying out a credible investigation and trial.

The court was set up a decade ago to hold accountable perpetrators of the very worst crimes against humanity and war crimes, but some feel Africa has been unfairly targeted, making the court deeply unpopular across the continent.

(Reporting by Thomas Escritt; Additional reporting by James Macharia; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky and Anthony Deutsch)

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