Kenyans wait for justice in election violence trial | Africa | DW | 26.10.2012
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Kenyans wait for justice in election violence trial

On a trip to Kenya, the ICC's chief prosecutor has urged the government to cooperate fully with the court and provide evidence for the trial of four presidential hopefuls. She condemned witness intimidation.

Kenyans have waited five years for justice to prevail following the bloodshed that followed the 2007 election unrest.

The country sank into violence when results were announced following the December 27, 2007 general election. Political riots turned into ethnic killings, homes were torched and people hacked to death in what were the country's worst atrocities since Kenya gained independence in 1963.

Standing trial

In April 2013, the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague is set to try four men accused of masterminding the post-election violence that left more than 1,000 dead and a further 300,000 people displaced.

Uhuru Kenyatta, Kenya's deputy prime minister, and former agriculture minister William Ruto will face the ICC to answer charges of crimes against humanity for their roles in directing the hostilities.

Kenya's Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta. (Photo:Bas Czerwinski, File/AP/dapd)

March 2013 presidential candidate, Uhuru Kenyatta

Both men are also running for election in the March 4, 2013 Kenyan presidential vote.

On Wednesday, Ruto said if he were successful in winning the election and went to The Hague to stand trial before the ICC, he would be able to govern Kenya via the internet.

"I would have no problem going to The Hague and running the affairs of Kenya," he told reporters Thursday while on the campaign trail.

Radio presenter Joshua Arap Sang and Civil Service head Francis Muthaura will also face the ICC in April to answer similar charges.

'No one will get away with it'

In Kenya for her first official visit, the ICC's chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, met people who were displaced by the deadly post-election violence five years ago and were still living in a squalid tent camp .

Bishop Sospeter Njenga surveys a row of houses belonging to Kikuyus, which were burned to the ground during ethnic clashes. (Photo: AP Photo/Ben Curtis)

Many were left homeless after their homes were destroyed

After touring the settlement, Bensouda assured the 966 families based at the campsite outside Nakuru, some 150 kilometers (100 miles) west of the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, that there we would be no immunity for those responsible for the violence, regardless of their office.

"This means no-one, irrespective of status, could commit crimes on a massive scale and get away with it," she said simply, "it is the law."

"Ours is a judicial, not political process," the Gambian prosecutor added, saying "the ICC prides itself on its independence."

Cases before the ICC, she added, would continue even if one of the accused was elected president in the 2013 elections.

Officials stall evidence handover

Bensouda used her five-day visit to Kenya to urge the government to cooperate fully with the court and provide the evidence needed for the case to move forward.

The prosecutor told a press conference on Thursday she had voiced her concerns to Kenyan leaders that the government was late in responding to a number of requests made by her office for information.

"It could be better," she said when questioned about cooperation with the Kenyan government over the supply of information. "I came personally to urge the government to cooperate more with the ICC."

"I insisted that the requested information be given by the end of November 2012," she added, after meeting with President Mwai Kibaki, Prime Minister Raila Odinga and other government officials on Thursday morning.

Bensouda said government officials had "promised the information required to build [her] case," but would not give any further details of the specifics requested.

Fatou Bensouda takes the oath(Photo: REUTERS/Bas Czerwinski/Pool).

Bensouda assured victims justice would prevail

President Kinaki publically promised to cooperate with the ICC, but has allegedly been behind attempts to block the trials and have the case transferred to Nairobi.

The Kenyan judiciary has so far failed to put any of the accused on trial for the election violence five years ago.

Political analysts say Kibaki is concerned that the ICC trail may uncover evidence disgracing members of his government.

Witnesses intimidation

The ICC prosecutor also used the opportunity to urge Kenyan officials to crack down on the intimidation of witnesses in the ICC trial and to thoroughly investigate any allegations of bribing witnesses or threats to pervert the course of justice.

A man runs across the road holding a looted gas cylinder from a shop Monday, Dec. 31, 2007, at the Bamburi estate along the Old Mombasa-Malindi road, in Kenyas coastal town of Mombasa, during looting in protest against the announcement of President Mwai Kibaki of the Party of National Unity as the winner of the December 27th elections against Raila Odinga of Orange Democratic Movement.(AP Photo)

The ICC has been requesting the Kenyan authorities to supply evidence

Bensouda said the court required information from key witnesses, including government administrators and senior police officials in the areas where the violence took place.

Up until now, all have refused to give witness statements, and sought court orders protecting them from doing so.

"A climate of fear is being created for the witnesses not to come forward and give evidence…we are taking this very seriously," Bensouda said, warning that "those who attempt to intimidate the witnesses will face justice before the ICC."

Agina Ojwang, a prominent Kenyan lawyer and political expert, told DW that Bensouda's visit had showed "that the Kenyan government had no intention of prosecuting other post-election violence cases locally."

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