Saturday, April 09, 2011

The Second Lot of Suspects Appear in the ICC!

Uhuru Kenyatta, Francis Muthaura and Hussein Ali made their first appearance in the ICC on 08.04.2011 amid renewed warning from the Court that they observe the conditions of the summons. The Presiding Judge, Justice Ekaterina Trendafilova spoke plainly this time round cautioning the suspects against engaging in utterance that could jeopardize peace in Kenya. She said that the Court would not hesitate to replace the summons to appear with warrants of arrest. 

At the same time, the Prosecutor had applied for harsher conditions that would require the three to be appearing in person before the judges at least once every six months. He also sought an order to ensure that the suspects refrain from making any public statements that contain or can be construed as containing “an open or veiled threat to actual or prospective witnesses or victims”. In addition, they should submit complete financial information. The defence lawyers too requested the Court to order the Prosecutor to restrain from making what they termed as “extra-judicial” utterances at press briefings.  The Court promised to make its decision on the matter raised.
The hearing for confirming the charges against the three will be held on 21.09.2011. During yesterday's proceedings, the defence lawyers for the accused actively engaged the Court demanding that the Prosecutor provide the suspects with the evidence he presented to the Court on 15.12.2010. The Court ruled that during the planned conference on April 18, the prosecutor will give an estimate of documents he wants to use to prove the cases, number of witnesses, no of witness statements, indication whether he intends to involve victims and his many witnesses he intends to keep confidential. In addition, the defence teams will be required to indicate whether they want to call witnesses and the documents they intend to use.

With home-coming reception rally planned by the supporters of the two presidential candidates, William Ruto and Uhuru Kenyatta and their declared onslaught on their main presidential candidate rival Raila Odinga, it will be a difficult or impossible balancing act to require the two to tame their language. If Raila were to utilise this opportunity to deride his opponents, then Ruto and Uhuru could easily argue that the ICC is being used to silence them and therefore ‘working for Raila’.

Friday, April 08, 2011

The First Case against Kenyan Suspects Opens in ICC

The first case against the Ocampo Six opened in The Hague on 07.04.2011 in a preliminary appearance over events stemming from the 2008 post election violence. The suspects William Ruto, Henry Kosgey and Joshua Sang appeared in Pre-Trial Chamber II before the judges with Presiding Judge Ekaterina Trendafilova from Bulgaria. The Court informed them of charges they face and their rights as suspects. They were not required to plead to the charges because they were yet to be confirmed. The Court fixed the confirmation of the charges to be held on 01.09.2011. Meanwhile the suspects remain free as long as they observe the conditions issued to them before by the Court. The presiding judge also cautioned them against use of inflammatory language in public meetings as it has been reported by the Kenyan newspapers and said that this could constitute a breach of the conditions for the summonses and trigger issuing of arrest warrants.

The spectacle of the suspects in the ICC was a humbling scene for the suspects and those who thought The Hague would never come. The proceedings were brought home to Kenyan thanks to technology that allowed them to follow live on TV or Radio commentaries. As the reality of The Hague dawned to Kenyans, the mood was a mixture of sobriety and expectations.  The gravity of the matter was now starting to sink in the hyped psyche of previous week’s events. Both divides in the matter share the sense of expectations, with those who think their "leaders" have been falsely accused expecting their innocence to be confirmed in due course and those who see this as a trial of impunity expecting accountability finally.

As the second bunch of suspects, Uhuru Kenyatta, Francis Muthaura and Hussein Ali make their maiden appearance today, the ICC proceedings will continue to captivate the minds of Kenyans as long as the trials last.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011


MPs accompanying the Six Suspects                 Photo/JOAN PERERUAN
The trial of those suspected of bearing the greatest responsibility in the aftermath 2007 post-election violence in Kenya finally starts tomorrow 07.04.2011 at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague. The long process of identifying the suspects and arraigning them in the Court has had its share of drama and tragedy. The drama played itself out with the failed search for the special local tribunal to investigate and prosecute the culprits when the Members of Parliament declared "Stop being Vague go to Hague". Then, The Hague was a far distant destination but when the ICC Prosecutor Mr Moreno Ocampo revealed the identity of the Six Suspects, the tragedy for the Six dawned with the realisation of the dawn of The Hague. Yet, the drama seems to continue with a battery of MPs accompanying the Six to the Courtroom. The way the drama is unfolding one would be forgiven to think the Six were the victims and the ICC or precisely the Prosecutor was the perpetrator. The real victims the displaced, maimed, raped, the dead and their families do not count. The cry for justice is not for the victims of the violence but the Six. Kenya may misplace its priorities by overdramatizing the fate of the Six, however I hope the guest for justice for the victims and the punishment of impunity will always guide the actions of the international community and the ICC.

The Six may be innocent but at least they will have their day in the court where they can contest and demonstrate their innocence. However, the victims of the violence never had the chance to defend themselves and demonstrate their innocence.

Let us also remember that Kenya freely drove itself to the Hague and not the other way round. The ICC did not invite Kenya to The Hague. When Kenyans butchered each other and the Kenya government failed to carry out its primary responsibility of a sovereign State to investigate and prosecute the perpetrators of the violence the intervention of the ICC became inevitable. This is not the first time Kenya has failed to punish impunity. We all live in the dreadful memories of the prior elections' violence and subsequent impunity and lack of criminal accountability.

Love of a Mother                   Photo/PHOEBE OKALL
As Kenyan government exercises its sovereign right to challenge the admissibility of the cases and asking for a deferral, it is only a sincere effort to create local procedures to try the suspects that will be rewarded with deferral. I truly believe that Kenya should have taken the challenge earlier and established a local tribunal rather than going The Hague path but that is water gone under the bridge now. For the Six The Hague is a reality and for the victims of the violence it is a start for justice.