Arusha, September 6, 2013 (FH) – Kenya on Thursday took a first step towards leaving the International Criminal Court. Members of Parliament meeting in extraordinary session voted to withdraw from the Rome Statute, which created the ICC. A bill to this effect is expected to be introduced in the next 30 days.

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This comes as Kenyan Deputy President William Ruto is due to go on trial before the ICC next week. The Court has charged both Ruto and Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta with crimes against humanity related to 2007-2008 post-election violence. President Kenyatta’s trial is due to start in November.

Kenyatta and Ruto were elected in March, despite the ICC charges against them. The Kenyan National Assembly is dominated by their Jubilee Coalition.

The ICC has reiterated in the last few days that according to the Rome Statute, the withdrawal of a States Party would not cancel or in any way affect cases already before the Court.

A withdrawal would still have to be approved by the Kenyan Senate and would not come into effect for a year. Kenya would be the first country to pull out of the ICC since the Court was set up in 2002.

During Thursday’s heated parliamentary debate, the Court was again accused of being an instrument of neocolonialism. Aden Duale, the initiator of the motion, said it aimed to liberate Kenyans from their colonial masters, while another Jubilee Coalition MP called on parliament to consign the ICC to “the dustbin of history”. Opposition MPs, some of whom walked out before the vote, said it was a dark day for Kenya. Francis Nyenze, leader of the parliamentary opposition, denounced the move as "an evil scheme hatched by the Jubilee".