ICC names high-profile suspects in Kenya's killing spree

15th December 2010, Comments 0 comments

The International Criminal Court Wednesday accused six Kenyans, among them the son of the nation's founder Jomo Kenyatta, of masterminding the 2007-8 post-election violence that claimed 1,500 lives.

They included senior allies of both President Mwai Kibaki and his rival Raila Odinga, now his prime minister in a power-sharing government brokered to end the unrest.

Those named include Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta, sacked education minister William Ruto -- a declared candidate for the 2012 presidential election -- and former police chief Mohammed Hussein Ali.

The others are Francis Muthaura, the head of Kenya's public service, Industrialisation Minister Henry Kosgey and radio executive Joshua arap Sang.

The court's chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo told a press conference the six cited "are the most responsible, but of course there are many others... We concentrate on the most responsible... of course, Kenya can decide to prosecute more."

"The post-election period of 2007-2008 was one of the most violent periods of the nation's history," Moreno-Ocampo, a dogged pursuer of rights offenders, said.

"These were not just crimes against innocent Kenyans," he said. "They were crimes against humanity as a whole. By breaking the cycle of impunity for massive crimes, victims and their families can have justice. And Kenyans can pave the way to peaceful elections in 2012."

The ICC said the carnage left more than 1,100 people dead, 3,500 injured and up to 600,000 forcibly displaced.

"During 30 days of violence, there were hundreds of rapes, possibly more, and over 100,000 properties were destroyed in six of Kenya's eight provinces."

The prosecutor indicated that the quest for justice was far from over.

"This is the beginning of a journey, there's a long journey to justice in Kenya," he said.

Moreno-Ocampo accused Ruto of "preparing a criminal plan to attack ... the Party of National Unity" of Kibaki and inciting violence.

"They immediately... began to attack," he said.

Kenyatta, a Kibaki ally who is one of the country's most powerful and richest men and also seen as a likely candidate in the 2012 presidential poll, immediately denied any role.

"My record is clear and it remains very clear that I have never committed any crime," the 49-year-old told reporters at a press conference in Nairobi.

"The ICC prosecutor has done his work, we wait for the outcome of the judges," he said. "I now find myself to be a suspect, I am ready to respond to any allegations made against me."

Kenyatta however did not specify however whether he would respond to a summons if the judges decided to meet the prosecutor's request for one.

Kenya's human rights body accused Kenyatta in a report on the post-election unrest of attending meetings in early 2008 to plan for retaliatory violence by his Kikuyu community.

Kenya was plunged into violence after the December 27, 2007 general elections in which the 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, people hacked to death and some 300,000 forced to flee their homes in the country's worst violence since independence in 1963.

The Hague-based court took charge of trying the key suspects after Nairobi last year failed to set up a tribunal of its own in line with the agreements brokered by former United Nations chief Kofi Annan that ended the chaos.

"The judges of Pre-Trial Chamber II will now review the evidence. If they determine that there are reasonable grounds to believe that the six persons named committed the alleged crimes, they will decide on the most appropriate way to ensure their appearance in Court. The Prosecution has requested Summonses to Appear," a statement said.

The ICC, which started operating in the Hague in 2002, is the world's only independent, permanent tribunal with the jurisdiction to try allegations of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

© 2010 AFP

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