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Kenya has jurisdiction to try its leaders: S.Africa

South Africa said Friday that Kenya should be allowed to try its own leaders, accused of crimes against humanity, after the east African nation voted to leave the International Criminal Court.

Deputy Foreign Minister Ebrahim Ebrahim said South Africa supported the African Union’s position that Kenya had principal jurisdiction in the cases of its President Uhuru Kenyatta and Vice President William Ruto.

The International Criminal Court has indicted the two men for their alleged roles in organising deadly violence that erupted after Kenya’s 2007 election, killing at least 1,100 people.

“The Kenyan authorities, if they have the capacity, should then try these people in Kenya,” Ebrahim told a media briefing.

“We support the African Union position of complementarity. If there is domestic capability to try them domestically, then that should be the course of action.”

Kenyan lawmakers on Thursday backed a motion to pull out of the International Criminal Court ahead of The Hague-based tribunal’s trial of Ruto, which opens next week.

Kenyatta is due to go on trial in November.

“Our position of course will be informed by the approach adopted by the Kenyan authorities and the accused,” said Ebrahim.

“As well as efforts by the Kenyan government to assume responsibility and jurisdiction to deal with the accusation of crimes against humanity,” he added.

An AU council decision in May had said Kenya had primary jurisdiction in the case, he said.

Many African leaders, as well as the AU as a body, have claimed the ICC unfairly targets Africans while ignoring war crimes suspects in other parts of the world.

The Kenyan cases moved to the ICC after a failure to make headway in a domestic court.

But the AU argued that reforms in Kenya, including a new constitution and revamped judiciary, meant the cases should now return there.