The prosecutor at the International Criminal Court (ICC) has named six high-profile Kenyans including senior politicians and a former police chief who were suspected to be behind the violence that followed the disputed 2007 elections.
Close to 1,200 people lost their lives while over 650,000 were displaced in the riots. Kenyan police are on high alert after the announcement which observers say could spark renewed clashes in the region.
High-ranking officials from both parties of Kenya's coalition government including President Mwai Kibaki's Party of National Unity (PNU) and Prime Minister Raila Odinga's Orange Democratic Party (ODM) have been listed in two separate cases, each involving three accused.
ICC chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo on Wednesday stated that he was requesting summons for deputy Prime Minister and Finance minister Uhuru Kenyatta, Industrialization minister Henry Kosgey, suspended education minister William Ruto, radio executive Joshua Arap Sang, secretary to the cabinet Francis Kirimi Muthaura and former police chief Mohammed Hussein Ali.
Ocampo's 80-page document listing the accusations has been submitted to a three-judge bench. The bench, after evaluation over the next couple of months, would give a go ahead for the prosecutor to slap charges against the six Kenyans. Accordingly, the suspects will be required to inform the Pre-Trial Chamber II their readiness to appear before the ICC judges.
Later on, they will be asked to appear before the judges at The Hague. A public hearing to confirm the charges could be held mid-2011and the trial is likely to be complete by early 2013. An arrest warrant could be slapped against the accused if they fail to obey the court summons or try to intimidate witnesses.
They (the accused) must respond to all requests by ICC judges; they must attend all hearings when required, and post bond if the judges so instruct them. These conditions are strict. They are in accordance with the Rome Statute and ICC rules, Ocampo told reporters at a media conference.
Meanwhile lawmakers in Kenya are trying to block any attempt by the ICC to try the suspects. Legislators have urged the country's parliament to repeal the International Crimes Act so that Kenya is not obligated to implement the Rome Statute. Earlier this week, President Kibaki announced that the government would launch its own investigations into the violence. Kenyan MPs, however, are likely to approve of a tribunal that could prevent suspects being sent to The Hague.
The United Nations maintained that Kenya, which is a signatory to the Rome Statute, should back the ICC instead of undermining its trial. The world body urged the Kenyans to cooperate in the trial and announced their support Ocampo.
Those who did wrong things should face prosecution to prevail justice to those offended. The UN support every step Ocampo makes, UN Special Advisor Owen Anderson said on Wednesday.
It was in December 2007 that President Mwai Kibaki was declared winner of presidential run-off. He hurriedly sworn himself while his rival, Raila Odinga, alleged irregularities in the polls. Riots erupted all over the country almost placing it on the verge of a civil war. Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan brokered a power-sharing agreement between Kibaki and Odinga. A 41-member cabinet with members from both parties was later formed.