Civil society groups defend victims at ASP
This article appeared on the blog, The Hague Trials
Kenya’s civil society groups put up a robust defense for victims at the Assembly of States Parties (ASP) in The Hague, where the government and the African Union sought to amend the Rome Statute to provide immunity for sitting heads of state.
The government was caught flat-footed because non-governmental organisations had sent representatives to speak at the assembly and attend all the crucial panel discussions and debates on the amendments. “The voice of the victims must be heard, lest they drown in the noise of those who want to entrench impunity by protecting those who commit serious crimes,“ said Njonjo Mue, one of the civil society representatives.
Civil society speaks out
The government delegation was surprised when Njonjo and his colleagues from the sector were given a platform to address the main plenary of the assembly. There they insisted on having the rights of victims protected instead of the assembly members focusing on suspects who committed the crimes. “The international community should not support impunity by allowing any amendments which will erode the Rome Statute provisions on equality before the law," said Njonjo.
So intense were the differences between the government and the NGOs that the government team stormed out of a key debate after clashing with representatives from civil society organizations. The Kenyan team, led by Deputy Solicitor General Muthoni Kimani, walked of the World Hotel Bel Air where the debate on the implications of the proposed immunity for heads of state on the ICC was taking place.
Delegates from Western countries and other parts of the world were left speechless. Human rights lawyer Njonjo Mue was one of the panelists at the debate. He appealed to the ASP not to bow to pressure and change any aspect of the Rome Statute.
Mue says the Kenya government has not done enough to deal with the problems affecting victims of the violence. He added there is no point for the government to "besiege the world with demands seeking to protect individuals from standing trial over such crimes".
Muthoni, who was with legal adviser in the office of the Deputy President, Korir Singoei, put up a strong defence for the government outlining the resettlement of IDPs and assistance given to victims of the violence. "The victims have become tools to be used by NGOs and people like Njonjo for their own benefits. Njonjo has not even met any of the victims he keeps talking about," said Singoei.
Muthoni and her team walked out when Njonjo challenged them to state how much had been used to compensate those who lost their kin during the violence. At one point, Korir shouted back as Njonjo was speaking at the meeting.
Victims in President Uhuru Kenyatta's case at the ICC opposed the proposal by Kenya and the AU to amend the statute and any other rules of procedure and evidence for the ICC. Lawyer for the victims Fergal Gaynor says the victims have expressed their desire to have Kenyatta face trial at the ICC because they do not support immunity. He said the victims do not see the trials as an attack on Kenya's sovereignty as argued by some those in the government delegation. “The victims would like to see justice prevail and they would like to see the suspects stand trial at The Hague," said Gaynor.
Lead image: Njonjo Mue (Photo: Bill/The Hague Trials Kenya)
*Nevins Biko is a pseudonym for a Nairobi-based journalist and blogger.