Voice

Kenyan Deputy President Asks ICC for Permission to Return Home

Kenya's second-in-command, William Ruto, wants to be at home to help deal with the mall attack by Islamic extremists. The problem? He's on trial before the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague over charges stemming from 2007-2008 violence. According to Reuters, Ruto's lawyers have asked the court to grant him leave to return home:

Judges at the International Criminal Court will meet on Monday to decide if Kenya's deputy president can return home to deal with the armed occupation at a Nairobi shopping mall in which 59 people have been killed, a person close to events said.

In a filing seen by Reuters, William Ruto's lawyers had asked judges to meet in emergency session on Sunday to adjourn the trial. If it had been granted, Ruto could have left The Hague for Nairobi on Sunday evening.

Kenya's president, Uhuru Kenyatta, also faces an ICC trial slated to begin in November. Both Ruto and Kenyatta have insisted that they will continue to cooperate with the ICC, but court officials and human rights advocates have decried what they see as a quiet campaign to discourage witnesses from testifying.

On other fronts, the tussle between Nairobi and The Hague is much more open. Kenya's Parliament recently supported withdrawing from membership in the court (that hasn't happened yet). And at the regional level, Kenyan diplomats are reportedly encouraging large-scale withdrawals from the ICC by African states. The spectacle of Ruto pleading for permission to return home in the midst of a crisis may deepen official African discomfort with an institution many see as interfering with diplomatic processes. 

The Multilateralist

UN Rights Investigators Report on North Korea

The United Nations Human Rights Council experts tasked with examining North Korea's human rights record have produced initial findings. North Korea has not cooperated with the probe, and Council investigators have focused on interviews with defectors and asylum seekers in South Korea and Japan:

Michael Kirby, Chairperson of the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, said the Democratic People's Republic of Korea had so far not cooperated with the Commission and it was pursuing alternative avenues to obtain direct and first-hand information in a transparent, independent and impartial manner.  In August, the Commission visited Seoul and Tokyo and held public hearings that provided hours of testimony from victims and experts, pointing to widespread and serious violations including torture, imprisonment, forcible repatriation, sexual violence, inhumane treatment, arbitrary detention, abductions, starvation, and guilt by association.  The individual testimonies did not represent isolated cases.  They were representative of large-scale patterns.  If any of the testimony could be shown to be untrue, the Commission invited the Democratic People's Republic of Korea to produce evidence to that effect.  

Kirby discussed some of the more gruesome findings with the BBC:

Mr Kirby told BBC World TV that they had received testimony from people who had been born into the prison camps because their family members were already there.

"They had to live on rodents, grasshoppers, lizards and on grass and they were subject to cruelty," he said.

Mr Kirby said that one case told of inmates having to watch the public execution of their mother and brother.

The New York Times reports that China is not pleased:

Although China did not actively oppose the investigation, a senior Chinese diplomat in Geneva on Tuesday criticized the interim findings. “Politicized accusations and pressures are not helpful to improving human rights in any country,” Chen Chuandong said, according to Reuters. “On the contrary, they will only provoke confrontation and undermine the foundation and atmosphere for international human rights cooperation.”