Senior Kenyans due before war crimes judges this week

5th April 2011, Comments 0 comments

Kenya's deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta and five others accused of masterminding deadly 2007-08 post-election violence, are set to appear before the International Criminal Court this week.

The six, senior allies of President Mwai Kibaki and of his rival Raila Odinga, face charges of crimes against humanity after ICC prosecutors labelled them the "most responsible" for violence that killed about 1,200 people, left 3,500 injured and up to 300,000 forcibly displaced.

They will appear before a pre-trial chamber, which will "satisfy itself that they (the accused) have been informed of the crimes which they are alleged to have committed", court spokeswoman Jelena Vukasinovic told AFP.

"They confirmed to the court that they would be present."

The ICC has divided the men into two groups according to their political allegiances.

Sacked education minister William Ruto, Industrialisation Minister Henry Kosgey and radio executive Joshua arap Sang will make their initial appearance at 9:30 am (0730 GMT) on Thursday.

Along with Kenyata, public service head Francis Muthaura and former police chief Mohammed Hussein Ali must appear at 2:30 pm on Friday.

Charges against the six include murder, deportation, rape, inhumane acts, persecution and torture for acts in the months following Kibaki's contested re-election in December 2007.

Issuing summonses for the men in March, the ICC said there were reasonable grounds to believe that the Kenyatta group was responsible for attacks against supporters of Odinga's Orange Democratic Movement (OMD) with a view to keeping power Kibaki's Party for National Unity (PNU) in power.

The group of Ruto, Kosgey and Sang, on the other hand, were believed to have been part of a plan "targeting members of the civilian population supporting the PNU, in order to punish them and evict them from the Rift Valley with the ultimate goal of gaining power and creating a uniform ODM voting block."

The men have said they would cooperate with the court to prove their innocence.

Kenya was plunged into violence after the December 27, 2007 general elections in which then opposition chief Odinga accused Kibaki of having rigged his re-election.

What began as political riots soon turned into ethnic killings targeting Kibaki's Kikuyu tribe.

They launched reprisal attacks in which homes were torched and people hacked to death in the country's worst violence since independence in 1963.

Before any trial can take place, judges of the ICC must confirm charges against the six men, a process Vukasinovic said "may take several months".

Kenya on Thursday filed an application for the court to declare the two cases inadmissible, saying the country was competent to handle the prosecution itself.

The ICC, the world's only independent, permanent tribunal for war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity, can only prosecute if a state is unwilling or unable to do so.

The court took charge of the case after Nairobi failed to set up a tribunal of its own in line with agreements brokered by former United Nations chief Kofi Annan to end the post-vote chaos.

© 2011 AFP

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