THE HAGUE - The chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Court (ICC) asked judges on Thursday for approval to launch a formal investigation into post-election violence in Kenya last year.

The ICC said on November 6 it would consider a prosecution request to investigate suspected crimes against humanity committed during the 2008 clashes, which shattered Kenya's image as a stable, regional economic powerhouse.

There is a reasonable basis to believe that crimes against humanity within the jurisdiction of the court were committed, Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo told reporters.

In particular, crimes of murder, rape and other forms of sexual violence, deportation or forcible transfer of population and other inhuman acts.

Ethnic clashes after the disputed presidential election killed at least 1,300 people and uprooted more than 300,000.

Kenya had promised to deal with the masterminds, but numerous attempts to kick-start the process have floundered and many Kenyans are sceptical as to whether powerful individuals can be charged because of widespread impunity among politicians.

Moreno-Ocampo said during a visit to Kenya this month he would seek permission to start an investigation and it is now up to judges to decide on the prosecutor's request.