Prosecutor To Investigate Kenya Violence

Moreno Ocampo

Netherlands — International judges said Wednesday the frenzy of killing and violence that erupted after Kenya’s disputed 2007 presidential elections may amount to crimes against humanity and authorized the court’s prosecutor to investigate.Weeks of violence after President Mwai Kibaki was declared winner of Kenya’s December 2007 elections left more than 1,000 dead and forced 600,000 to flee their homes.Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo, who asked the International Criminal Court in November for clearance to investigate the clashes, urged Kenya’s leaders to work with him.

“President Kibaki’s and Prime Minister (Raila) Odinga’s commitment to justice and to cooperation with the ICC is crucial,” he said.By a 2-1 majority, the three judges who studied Moreno Ocampo’s request and 1,500 pages of accompanying evidence said it provides a “reasonable basis to believe that crimes against humanity have been committed on Kenyan territory.”The world’s first permanent war crimes tribunal has jurisdiction to take on the case, they said.

The decision was welcomed by Hassan Omar Hassan of the Kenya National Commission of Human Rights, who said it is the first step toward combating impunity. “It is a victory for the victims of the postelection violence, especially the women and children,” Hassan said in Nairobi.Moreno Ocampo said the judges’ approval for him to investigate means “there will be no impunity for those most responsible” for the violence.”Justice will contribute to preventing future crimes in Kenya,” he said. Moreno Ocampo planned to give a news conference Thursday about his next steps in the case.

His office began evaluating the Kenyan violence in January 2008. In July, former U.N. chief Kofi Annan, who mediated an end to the fighting, sent Moreno Ocampo a sealed envelope with the names of suspected ringleaders named by an independent commission.The commission kept the names secret, saying they were powerful individuals who could interfere with future investigations, but did say that a handful of Cabinet ministers, business people and police officers were listed.Moreno Ocampo said he was not bound by the commission’s findings and would conduct his own investigation. He said he hoped the inquiry would prevent violence during Kenyan elections in 2012.The Kenya investigation will be the court’s fifth since opening its doors in 2002 – all of them based in Africa.It also marks the first time the prosecutor has called on judges to open an investigation. In other cases, the countries involved or the U.N. Security Council asked for the court to investigate.

Judges said Moreno Ocampo’s investigation into alleged crimes against humanity could span a period from June 2005 – the date Kenya joined the court – to November 2009 – the date Moreno Ocampo requested the investigation.Moreno Ocampo said the investigation should unite Kenya and its people.”This is a moment for Kenyans to come together,” he said. “To understand and acknowledge what happened. To make sure it will never happen again.”

Former Kenyan parliament member Jayne Kihara told The Associated Press she expected to be investigated by the court since she was named earlier by the independent commission.But she insisted she is innocent. “If there is going to be an investigation they will never get me. I did not do anything. I was not there,” said Kihara, who lost her parliament seat in 2007 for the area of Naivasha, one of the flashpoints of violence.