Kenya backed down from its threat to quit the International Criminal Court, saying fellow member states had given it the assurances it wanted over the trial of its vice-president, but warned that any adverse ruling could change its view.
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.
Kenya said member states at the court’s general assembly in The Hague had clarified that a new rule allowing the court to use testimony from witnesses who had since decided to withdraw could not be applied retroactively to cases like Ruto’s.
Kenya and its African Union allies have been at loggerheads with the court and its primarily European financial backers since President Uhuru Kenyatta, who then faced similar charges, and running mate Ruto were elected two years ago.
But in a statement late on Thursday night, Foreign Minister Amina Mohamed said Kenya was satisfied with assurances given it by other member states.
“Good faith, cooperation, and mutual respect have today triumphed over cynicism and bias,” she said.
“Our faith in the Rome Statute system which had been jolted can however, only be reinforced if this negotiation’s outcomes receives judicial imprimatur in Court,” she added.
The court has previously said that it is for judges to decide what testimony can be used, meaning they could still make a ruling with which Kenya disagrees.
While the deal would seem to avert the risk of Kenya becoming the first of the court’s 123 member states to quit the permanent global war crimes tribunal, the rift remains at a time when Europe needs allies in the fight against Islamic militancy.
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.
South Africa, which has also been lobbying for more freedom to interpret the court’s rules, has been in conflict with the court since Pretoria failed to carry out an ICC arrest warrant against Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir when he visited Johannesburg in June.
Bashir is accused of masterminding genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes during Sudan’s Darfur conflict and is wanted by the Hague-based tribunal, which issued a warrant for his arrest in 2009.
Prosecutors at the ICC were forced to withdraw charges against Kenyatta, blaiming their failure on political interference with witnesses, especially after he became president. Kenyatta has denied the allegations.