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As AU Asks Year ICC Deferral for Kenya, Western Speculation, Vote Counts

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 31 -- Amid calls by African diplomats for the International Criminal Court (and the UN Security Council) to show some respect for The Continent, ambassadors filed into UN North Lawn conference room 7 on Thursday morning for an interactive dialogue on the ICC and Kenya.

  Inner City Press put questions to a number of African Union ministers, including one fastest to say: "Six months?" Meaning, would a deferral of six months on the ICC's Kenya cases be acceptable? (The AU and Kenyan letters were first put online by Inner City Press, here.)

  The answers, nearly uniformly, were "Twelve months" only. Some went further and said the relationship between African countries and the ICC (and by implication the Security Council) should be reformed.

  Of the Western Permanent Three, France's Gerard Araud arrived first; his colleague at the French mission who used to work for the ICC chatted with South African's former ambassador to the UN, now to the AU, Baso Sangqu.

   Similarly in conversation, Russia's Vitaly Churkin went in, as did China's Liu Jieyi.

  Then US Ambassador Power arrived, via elevator so presumably by car. She gave a pleasant hello; jokes or any references to the Boston Red Sox were eschewed. Then came the UK's Mark Lyall Grant, who did joke on Twitter about the Red Sox.

  But what are these countries' position on the deferral request? For now here's an argument they advance: if they gave a deferral based on the argument that Kenya just suffered a terrorist attack, then in another case "a dictator" could feign or cause his own terrorist attack.

  This argument misses that this is not really law, precedents are not binding. There is a claim that the ICC is purely legal, not political but that is hardly true. The decision that President Kenyatta wouldn't have to be "continuously present" at this trial was meant to forestall the AU request to the Security Council.

French ambassador Araud told Inner City Press he believed with that ruling, there would be no need to deal with the deferral request. He was wrong.

A question now is, when would a resolution to grant a twelve month deferral be unveiled? One African diplomat Wednesday night told Inner City Press so far they have "seven sure votes" in favor. Inner City Press counts more. But what about the veto? Watch this site.

Footnote: At first, Inner City Press was the only media outside the meeting. A French media came, briefly; then later two media from Africa.

  The comparison to an "interactive dialogue" in the same location in July featuring Saudi-sponsored Syria rebel Ahmad al Jarba was telling: for that, there was a throng of media, promotions by the Gulf & Western heavy UNCA, a UNTV camera stakeout. As the AU diplomat said, and as the new Free UN Coalition for Access @FUNCA_info asks, where's the respect?


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