Kenyan Ambassador wants immunity for African leaders ignored by World Court


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Kenya is demanding the United Nations’ judicial body to issue an opinion on whether national leaders should get protection in international legal proceedings.

The country’s Ambassador, Ombai Amayo Lazarus in his letter, acting on behalf of African group of UN member states requested United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres.

Ambassador Amayo asked SG Guterres to include the African group’s request for an advisory opinion as an agenda item for the UN General Assembly session that starts in September.

Should the General Assembly accepts to support the Kenya-led initiative, the UN’s International Court of Justice, often referred to as the “World Court,” would be asked to offer a nonbinding opinion on the question of immunity for heads of state and other high-ranking national officials.

“In recent years, the issue of immunities has become one of the most pressing issues in international law,” Amayo told the UN chief in his letter.

While Kenya is this time fronting this move, it faces stiff opposition by some African countries to the International Criminal Court’s long-standing effort to prosecute Sudan President Omar al-Bashir for alleged crimes against humanity, genocide and war crimes related to the conflict in the Darfur region.

After 2007 disputed polls in Kenya, a long campaign against the ICC’s indictment of President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto for crimes against humanity, stemming from the violence that left more than 1,000 people dead and thousands displaced from their homes.

However, in 2014 and 2016, the cases against Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto were dismissed by The Hague based international Court.

In recent years, South Africa, Burundi and Gambia announced their intentions to withdraw, accusing the ICC of undermining their sovereignty and unfairly targeting Africans and its leaders.

And while it was successful for Burundi to pull out of the Rome Statute, South Africa’s bid was frustrated by a national court, which declared it unconstitutional.

For Gambia, it was overturned after former president Yahya Jammeh was replaced by Adama Barrow in the 2016 elections.

Mr Amayo opined that in the memorandum that an ICC Pre-trial Chamber has ruled that under international law immunity cannot be invoked for heads of state in regard to prosecution by an international court.

Human Rights Watch said that immunity should not be granted to heads of state and other national officials accused of war crimes, genocide or crimes against humanity.


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