UNITED NATIONS — The African Union demanded that the Security Council vote Friday to shelve the International Criminal Court trial of Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta on crimes against humanity charges for a year.
Diplomats say the draft resolution asking for the delay appears doomed, with only seven of the 15 council members known to be supporting it. It would need nine votes to pass, and even then it could be vetoed by strong ICC supporters Britain or France.
The United States has not joined the court, but generally supports its goals and case work.
The African Union says the trial delay would give Kenya time to beef up counterterrorism efforts. Pressure for a deferral has intensified following September's deadly terror attack by militants on a Nairobi mall that killed 67 people, which underscored Kenya's strategic importance.
The Hague-based International Criminal Court charged Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto with crimes against humanity for their alleged roles in post-election violence that left more than 1,000 people dead in late 2007 and early 2008.
Kenyatta also is accused of responsibility for rape and other inhumane acts carried out by a criminal gang known as the Mungiki, which were allegedly under his control.
Kenyatta — who was elected president earlier this year, despite his indictment — insists he is innocent, as does Ruto, whose trial is already underway.
Last month, the International Criminal Court delayed Kenyatta's trial from mid-November until Feb. 5, but the African Union said that's not enough time and stepped up pressure for a one-year deferral.
Kenyatta has successfully rallied leaders across Africa to denounce the International Criminal Court as an institution that unfairly targets Africans. All of the court's eight current cases involve Africa, but four of them were requested or referred by African nations themselves.
Only the Security Council can ask for a delay on the grounds of a threat to international peace and security, under the Rome Statute treaty that founded the International Criminal Court.
Amnesty International is urging the council to vote against a deferral, saying victims of Kenya's 2007-2008 post-election violence have waited too long for justice.
"It would be a shame if Security Council members prioritized the personal interests of political leaders over those of victims of crimes against humanity," said Tawanda Hondora, deputy director of law and policy at Amnesty International.
Kenyans in recent months have watched televised ICC proceedings against Ruto, who also faces charges for his alleged role in directing post-election violence.
A new poll released Thursday that found that 67 percent of 2,060 Kenyans surveyed think Kenyatta should attend his trial at the International Criminal Court. It had a margin of error of plus or minus 2.2 percentage points.
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