International Criminal Court to investigate Kenya’s postelection violence

By Mike Corder, AP
Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Int’l court to probe Kenya’s election violence

THE HAGUE, Netherlands — The International Criminal Court will launch an investigation into the deadly violence that erupted after Kenya’s disputed 2007 presidential elections, the court’s prosecutor said Wednesday.

Luis Moreno Ocampo asked judges in November for clearance to investigate the clashes, saying there was a “reasonable basis to believe that crimes against humanity” were committed.

The fighting erupted after President Mwai Kibaki was declared winner of Kenya’s December 2007 elections. Weeks of bloodletting left more than 1,000 dead and forced 600,000 to flee their homes.

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.”

They said the world’s first permanent war crimes tribunal has jurisdiction to take on the case.

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.”

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