Kenya said last month it was ready to quit the International Criminal Court if it did not get assurances about the handling of the trial of its vice president, hardening a rift between African powers and the tribunal.
Vice President William Ruto is facing charges of crimes against humanity including murder, deportation and persecution linked to an outburst of ethnic killings after the 2007 presidential election.
Two senior Kenyan government lawyers told Reuters that Nairobi wanted promises that a new rule allowing the court to use testimony from witnesses who had since decided to withdraw could not be applied retrospectively to cases like Ruto’s.
“Withdrawal (from the global court) is one of the options available to us if we can’t secure what we have asked for,” one of the legal advisers said.
A Kenyan government team was asking for the assurances last month at a week-long meeting of the court’s governing body in The Hague. Members if the team did not specify if they were prepared to quit immediately if their demands were met at the session.
Kenya would be the first of the court’s 123-member states to withdraw since it opened in 2002 with the aim of ending impunity for leaders who commit war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide.
The African Union and other powers have accused the court of anti-African bias for targeting Africans in the majority of cases before it, but the claim has been rejected by the court’s prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda.
Prosecutors at the ICC were forced to withdraw charges this against Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, whom they accused in 2011 of stoking the ethnic violence.
They blamed their failure to put Kenyatta on trial on political interference with witnesses, especially after Kenyatta was elected president in 2013. Kenyatta has denied the allegations.