News24

ICC counters Kenyan challenge

2011-05-03 10:53

New York - The International Criminal Court prosecutor said the Kenyan government can't challenge the court's right to try six prominent Kenyans for allegedly orchestrating postelection violence by simply arguing that the country can now prosecute such cases.

Luis Moreno-Ocampo said in an interview on Monday with The Associated Press that the Kenyan government would have to demonstrate that "they are conducting genuine national proceedings against the same people for the same charges".

"Now, they are not reaching the threshold" of the court's standards, he said. "If they decide to conduct proceedings against the six individuals then we have to check the genuineness".

The six Kenyans appeared before The Hague, Netherlands-based ICC in early April for preliminary proceedings over charges of crimes against humanity. More than 1 000 Kenyans died and 600 000 were forced from their homes during the violence in late 2007 and early 2008.

The suspects were not required to enter pleas at the hearing which was held to establish that the men understood the charges against them and their rights and to set a timetable for future pretrial hearings.

The Kenyan government has challenged the court's right to try the six suspects, saying judicial reforms in the country mean it can now prosecute the postelection violence cases. Lawyers for the Kenyans are also fighting to have the cases dropped before they get to trial.

Cabinet secretary Francis Kirimi Muthaura, former police chief Mohammed Hussein Ali, former Education Minister William Samoei Ruto, former Minister of Industrialisation Henry Kiprono Kosgey, broadcaster Joshua Sang, and Uhuru Kenyatta, who holds the twin positions of deputy prime minister and finance minister, are alleged to have stirred up ethnic hatred after the election.

Moreno-Ocampo said "one of the biggest problems in Kenya is security", especially for witnesses.

For example, he said, Ruto was acquitted in a corruption trial "but five witnesses died" and of the other 16 witnesses, the few who appeared in court recanted their statements.

"So we are checking these type of circumstances," Moreno-Ocampo said.