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UN refuses to defer Kenya hearing

The UN Security Council has refused to defer the cases against six Kenyans facing charges of crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court.

Without a deferral, the cases will go ahead at the tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, where the six appeared at preliminary hearings on Thursday and Friday and declared their innocence.

A hearing to weigh prosecution evidence so judges can decide if it merits sending the case to trial was scheduled for September.

The Security Council met behind closed doors to consider a March 23 letter from Kenyan Ambassador Macharia Kamau seeking an open council meeting to consider its request for a deferral.

He said a deferral "would greatly enhance the ability of the country to complete its reform programme, including putting in place a local tribunal".

But Colombia's UN Ambassador Nestor Osorio, the current council president, told reporters after the meeting that the 15 council members "did not agree on the matter".

He said the request will not be taken up again "for the time being", adding: "It was a long discussion and every single member of the council gave opinions," Mr Osorio said of the closed meeting. "There were different opinions about the matter."

Kenya sent Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka to the United States last month with a team of six Cabinet ministers to lobby Security Council members to defer the cases.

But the United States, a veto-wielding council member, told the Kenyan government in March that it did not support a deferral and diplomats said Britain and France, which also have veto power, were opposed as well.

The Rome statute that set up the court allows the UN Security Council, under Article 16, to pass a resolution to defer or suspend for a year the investigation or prosecution of a case. It also gives the council authority to renew such a resolution.

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