Kenyan Govt Says it Still Backs Hague Trials.
The Kenyan government says that it still backs the international Criminal Court trials and that they will do all that pertains to ensure the trials are a success. Kenyan justice minister reiterated the governments efforts to support the Hague trials and denied reports that Kenya had asked the ICC to drop the charges.
A political storm has been raging in the country since local media quoted Justice Minister Mutula Kilonzo as saying any action by the ICC was unnecessary as cases could be heard in Kenya under its new constitution. Kilonzo told Reuters in an interview on Wednesday that the government was still solidly behind trials by the ICC, having signed an agreement with the Hague-based court, and was strengthening the judiciary to handle similar cases.
“To the extent that some part of the media alleged that I had asked the ICC to pack up and go, that was a complete fabrication. I am a lawyer and I know that the ICC is in Kenya by virtue of a court order,” Kilonzo said.
“We have a vested interest as a country and as a government to find out whether international crime was committed in Kenya in 2008, that is really critical. Kenya doesn’t have any investigation ongoing on that aspect (therefore) the ICC must finish its mandate,” Kilonzo said. He said the agreement with the ICC empowered it to gather evidence for the trials.
More than half of Kenyans want those behind the violence which followed disputed elections tried at the ICC, a poll by research firm Synovate showed last week.
The prospect of ICC trials has struck fear into Kenya’s political class, as the state-funded Kenya National Commission on Human Rights has named several senior cabinet ministers and prominent businessmen as architects of the violence.
The ICC’s chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo has said he will seek arrest warrants by the end of the year for up to six Kenyans from both sides of the conflict.
Kenya’s scenic Rift Valley was the epicentre of the bloodletting, which pitted ethnic Kalenjin supporters of current Prime Minister Raila Odinga against Kikuyu backers of incumbent President Mwai Kibaki, who was eventually declared the winner of the presidential poll.
Kilonzo was part of a team that worked closely with former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, who brokered a deal that stopped the bloodshed and created Kenya’s first coalition government.
The justice minister said Kenya was capable of handling trials of the kind to be conducted by the ICC once the new constitution was fully implemented, a process likely to take a few years. Kilonzo also said Kenya’s new constitution promulgated last month would revamp a judiciary in which Kenyans had lost confidence.
“I’m simply expressing my confidence as a Kenyan in our ability to do these things (prosecute) when the processes (investigations) are complete,” Kilonzo said. “I will continue to say, until you put cotton wool to block your ears, that as a country … we can do it.”
He said the Hague-based court had limited resources and could take years to try cases. Kilonzo said even if Moreno-Ocampo found evidence to go ahead with trials, he would have to seek the authority of the ICC to prosecute and could face legal challenges by individual Kenyans to stop the process.
To avoid any delays taking prosecutions beyond the next elections, Kenya needed to have a back-up plan to prosecute should Moreno-Ocampo fail to do so by then. “We don’t have that luxury (of delay) in this country,” Kilonzo said.
According to the REPORT ON POST-ELECTION VIOLENCE IN KENYA – by the UN Human Rights Team, impunity is deeply entrenched in Kenya and is not confined to the police alone. The report concludes that consistent failure to act on the findings and recommendations of various state-commissioned of inquiries and studies have distanced the citizens from State institutions. Most of those interviewed identified the failure to prosecute perpetrators (including planners and organisers) of past violence and human rights violations – and the consequent message this gives to perpetrators that they are able to act in total impunity – as “major contributing factors to the violence.”
Noting that the violence had caused massive displacement, the report also stressed the need for the authorities to ensure that displaced people are able to freely decide when or whether to return, resettle or reintegrate through a voluntary and informed choice, free from political considerations or other pressures.
The report welcomed the 28 February power-sharing agreement reached within the Kenya National Dialogue and Reconciliation process, and noted that important commitments have been made in the context of the dialogue to carry out reforms to address long-standing issues, including inequalities and accountability, constitutional and institutional reforms. The accords include an Independent Review Committee to investigate all aspects of the 2007 Presidential electoral process; a Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission; a constitutional review process, and a Commission of Inquiry with a mandate to investigate the circumstances surrounding the violence that occurred during the two months following the election.
The OHCHR report makes a number of recommendations related to these processes, laying a strong emphasis on accountability. Failure to carry out reforms could undermine the fragile improvement in security that has taken hold since the signing of the power-sharing agreement, the report said.
Excerpts from Reuters:
“Nevertheless, the findings of the OHCHR Mission indicate that the State failed to take all appropriate measures to meet its obligations to protect the rights of its citizens to life and physical integrity, property, democratic rights, freedom of expression, assembly and movement. In most districts, the police was unable to maintain and enforce law and order. Most of the victims and witnesses recount
that during the attacks, the police were often present but were either overwhelmed or passive. In some instances, police officers were even alleged to have taken active part in the violence.
The OHCHR Mission received detailed information from witnesses that in various places, most notably in Kibera slum area of Nairobi, Eldoret and Kisumu, the policing of demonstrations and crowds was conducted with excessive use of force resulting in death and injuries of many, including children. According to the Government’s own figures, ten percent of the killings were carried out by the police. Also, the OHCHR Mission notes that the ban on both live broadcast and peaceful assembly were unconstitutional and illegally deprived Kenyans of important civil and political rights.”
The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) issued a report on Wednesday following a three week fact-finding mission focused on the violence that engulfed Kenya in the wake of the disputed Presidential election in December 2007.
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