ICC to name Kenya violence suspects

2010-12-15 10:47

Nairobi - Three years after postelection violence left more than 1 000 people dead, top Kenyan leaders will learn on Wednesday if they will face international prosecution over their involvement in the violence.

The prosecutor for the International Criminal Court on Wednesday is expected to make public two cases against six people suspected of participation in postelection violence in the wake of a disputed December 2007 poll, as he files charges against them. He will also request that judges issue summonses.

The violence over who would take the presidency escalated into ethnic violence that included indiscriminate bow and arrow, machete and gunfire attacks.

The court will decide whether to summon suspects to appear voluntarily or will issue warrants, a decision that can take weeks.

ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo said he expects the suspects to surrender voluntarily. He also asked them to not contact each other, try to interfere with the investigation or trial, or commit new crimes.

"If the suspects do not comply with the conditions set by the Chamber, I will request arrest warrants," he said in a statement issued on Wednesday. "If there is any indication of bribes, intimidation or threats, I will request arrest warrants."

Frayed nerves

Kenyan police said they do not think violence will follow Wednesday's announcement, but the US Embassy has warned its citizens that political tension may increase and turn to violence. The US warning advised against travel to the Rift Valley, where some of the worst atrocities occurred.

The attacks broke out after the vote and lasted several weeks, often pitting tribes against each other. Kenya attempted to set up a tribunal but parliament shut it down and no major figure has ever faced justice.

Those expected to be named include former Cabinet minister William Ruto, an ethnic Kalenjin. His lawyer said Ruto believes he is among the suspects because he received a letter from the ICC asking him to respond to allegations of involvement in the violence.

The court may also name Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta, an ethnic Kikuyu, who was accused of involvement in a report presented to the ICC by the government-funded Kenya National Commission of Human Rights. Kenyatta has gone to court get his name expunged from the report.

The ICC's announcement that it will name suspects has led to frayed nerves among government leaders.

"I dreamed that Ocampo was just implying that I am in the list of suspects to be prosecuted in the Hague. I have dreamt it many times and most of my dreams come true, but with this one I am actually praying to God that it does not," said Peris Simam, a member of parliament from the Rift Valley.

Peace agreement

Violence erupted along tribal lines following an announcement that President Mwai Kibaki - a Kikuyu - had won a vote that opponents said was rigged.

In parts of the Rift Valley members of the Kalenjin tribe, who supported opposition candidate Raila Odinga, attacked Kikuyus. In Simam's Eldoret South constituency, Kalenjin youths torched a church where more than 100 Kikuyus had sought sanctuary. Dozens died.

Kikuyus retaliated by attacking people perceived to be from tribes supporting Odinga, a Luo. Human rights groups say police officers were responsible for nearly half of the deaths, raising the possibility that police officials are among the suspects.

The bloodbath stopped only after former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan mediated a peace agreement that created a coalition government in which Odinga was appointed prime minister.

The clashes severely damaged Kenya's reputation. The East African country has the region's largest economy and has long been regarded as a haven of stability in a region roiled by war.

Secret list

Kenya's government failed to set up a tribunal - a condition of the peace deal - so Annan last year presented the ICC with a list of suspects. The secret list was compiled by an independent commission set up to probe the violence.

The ICC is the first permanent global court set up to try individuals for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes when national courts are unable or unwilling to do so.

John Mututho, an ally of finance minister Kenyatta and a lawmaker from the Rift Valley, said he and nine other leaders want to lobby parliament to cancel the country's agreements to co-operate with the ICC because he said it has not conducted a fair investigation. He says the court's investigations were heavily influenced by the US government.

Ruto's lawyer, Katwa Kigen, said he has asked the ICC to share its evidence against his client before he is summoned.

Kenya's Cabinet met on Monday - a public holiday - and announced that it will form a local judicial process to try perpetrators of the violence, a move critics said was an attempt to stop the ICC process. Previous attempts to form a local tribunal were blocked by parliamentarians who said they worried about impartiality.

Mutahi Ngunyi, a political scientist with the Consulting House, a policy and security think tank, said the last-minute tribunal is an attempt to establish a judicial process Kenya can control. He also warned that violence could erupt if the prosecutor's list is dominated by one political group or tribe.