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ICC responds to African Union protests

  |   Sept. 20, 2013 at 1:15 PM
THE HAGUE, Netherlands, Sept. 20 (UPI) -- The International Criminal Court said Friday it has no legal power to consider challenges to cases on its books, including trials under way for Kenyan leaders.

The ICC heard witness testimony this week in war crimes cases against Kenyan Vice President William Ruto and national broadcast director Joshua Sang. Thousands of Kenyans died during post-election violence in 2007.

Ruto is suspected of using violence for political power while Sang was characterized as the "voice of hate." Both men entered not guilty pleas during their appearances before the court this week.

The African Union sent a letter to the court Sept. 10 saying it was "seriously concerned" the Kenyan cases would undermine leaders' ability to uphold their constitutional responsibilities.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta is scheduled to appear before the court in November. Kenyatta and Ruto, former rivals, took office earlier this year.

ICC Second Vice President Judge Cuno Tarfusser said the court "has no legal powers to consider arguments and concerns related to ongoing cases, and that such matters should be raised before the relevant chambers in accordance with the Rome Statute [the treaty that created the court] and the ICC's rules of procedure and evidence."

He added there are no pending requests for the ICC to defer the cases to Kenyan judicial authorities.

Kenyan lawmakers passed a measure in mid-September to sever ties with the court. The ICC said the decision wouldn't influence cases already on its docket.

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