Ruto under fire after signing Immunity Act against ICC

The Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) and Muslims for Human Rights (MUHURI) have censured President William Ruto for signing the Malabo Protocol of the Constitutive Act of the African Union.

The two in a statement on Tuesday termed the move as an affront to justice for victims of international crimes.

KHRC and MUHURI said the signing of the Act grants Ruto immunity against potential international crimes he may commit while in office 

“And it is not him alone. ‘Senior state officials’ will not be prosecuted for similar violations until they leave office,” they said. 

Ruto signed the  Act on July 24.

Malabo Protocol extends the jurisdiction of the yet-to-be-established African Court of Justice and Human Rights (ACJHR) to crimes under international law and transnational crimes.

The Court will have jurisdiction to try 14 different crimes, including genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

The Malabo Protocol will be ratified within the next three months with October as the deadline but Ruto said Kenya will ratify it in September.

Once adopted, Heads of State of countries that are signatories to the Protocol will henceforth be immune to the International Criminal Court processes unless their cases are referred to The Hague-based court by the African Union. 

Article 4 of the Act also insulates senior state officials from prosecution over criminal offences of international nature until they leave office.

The AU adopted the Malabo Protocol in 2014 with the aim of introducing a regional accountability mechanism and reinforcing the concept of “African solutions for African problems”.

“Regrettably, the current scenario seems to be contradictory, as the protocol appears to be facilitating the consolidation of impunity among authoritarian leaders,” the rights groups said.

The groups expressed concern that the signing of the protocol will have far-reaching ramifications regarding the quest for justice on behalf of victims and survivors of international crimes within Kenya.

“KHRC and MUHURI firmly believe that Ruto’s choice is unmistakably aimed at undermining the fundamental right to seek redress and reparations for these victims,” they said.

Kenya is a signatory to the Rome Statute of the ICC and is obligated to ensure that perpetrators of crimes against humanity are held to account at the Hague. 

Ratification of the Malabo Protocol, if true, renders the task of holding the President and senior government officials accountable at the court exceedingly complex should they commit a crime while in office.

The rights groups observed that victims and survivors will find it hard to pursue justice and reparations for international crimes at the ICC and have urged the government to reconsider ratifying the Malabo protocol.

“Refraining from ratification is essential to prevent undermining ICC’s jurisdiction and the fight against impunity,” KHRC and MUHURI said in the joint statement.


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