Thursday, March 10, 2011

Kenya to challenge Hague court in 'crimes against humanity' case

Kenya plans to challenge the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court and the "admissibility" of cases in an alleged crimes against humanity probe, the government said Wednesday.

Six Kenyan political leaders were issued summonses Tuesday to appear before the court in connection with ethnic violence that followed the nation's disputed 2007 election.

The court's top prosecutor, Luis Moreno Ocampo, in December named the six as suspects in organizing violence that left more than 1,000 people dead and displaced hundreds of thousands. The suspects are Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta, Cabinet Secretary Francis Muthaura, former chief of police Hussein Ali, former Agriculture Minister William Ruto, ethnic radio journalist Joshua Arap Sang and opposition leader Henry Kosgey.

Three are from one side of the political dispute and three are from the other.

They are to appear before the Pre-Trial Chamber of the international court in The Hague, Netherlands, on April 7.

"The government will challenge the admissibility of the cases as well as the jurisdiction of the court," said a statement issued Wednesday by Attorney General Amos Wako and two other government ministers. The statement noted that the statute governing the court allows such challenges.

The Kenyan government has been working to defer the case by promising to set up a special tribunal to investigate the alleged abuses. So far, the government has not formed that tribunal.

The disputed presidential election sparked chaos that escalated into ethnic violence pitting supporters of incumbent President Mwai Kibaki against those of challenger Raila Odinga, who was later named prime minister in a power-sharing agreement.

Ocampo, according to the documents, alleges that Muthaura, Kenyatta and Ali as co-perpetrators "committed or contributed to" the killings of supporters of the opposition Orange Democratic Movement, the deportation or forcible transfer of ODM supporters, the rape and other forms of sexual violence against ODM supporters, the persecution of civilians based on their political affiliation, and other inhumane acts.

On the opposition side, Ruto, Sang and Kosgey are accused as co-perpetrators of murder, deportation or forcible transfer, torture, and persecution committed in the greater Eldoret area, and the towns of Turbo, Kapsabet and Nandi Hills. The crimes, according to Ocampo, "were committed by large and organized gangs of Kalenjin youth against members of the civilian population, as part of a widespread and systematic attack" due to the local population's affiliation with the Party of National Unity.

Muthaura said he is willing to cooperate with the International Criminal Court and "abide by all decisions issued by the judges."

"My interest is, and always has been, that the rule of law shall prevail so that justice is done."

Kenyatta, a 2002 presidential candidate and son of the nation's first president, also serves as the finance minister.

"I don't think it will have much impact, our work will continue, the government will continue," Kenyatta said in December after he was named on the list of suspects. "We are a mature country that can handle its issues."

Kenya challenges the Hague

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