Charges against four out of six Kenyan officials have been confirmed by the International Criminal Court (ICC). They will stand trial over weeks of unrest following the 2007 election in which about 1,100 people died and 60,000 people were forced to flee their homes. (photo, from france24.com)
“After having thoroughly examined all the evidence presented by the prosecution, the chamber decided to confirm the charges against four of the six suspects,” ICC presiding judge Ekaterina Trendafilova said before a public hearing held in The Hague on Monday.
Finance minister Uhuru Kenyatta and cabinet secretary Francis Mutaura are accused of crimes against humanity allegedly targeting supporters of prime minister Raila Odinga, including murder and persecution.
Last September Mr Kenyatta, 50, denied the accusations at a preliminary hearing at The Hague-based court.
In a separate case because they were on opposite sides during the 2007 election, former education minister William Ruto and radio presenter Joshua arap Sang will also stand trial for crimes against humanity directed at Kibaki supporters.
All four of them deny the accusations.
Former minister of industrialization Henri Kiprono Kosgey was cleared of charges, as well as former police commissioner Major General Mohammed Hussein Ali.
Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto are expected to run against each other in the next election.
‘Decades of impunity’
“It is our utmost desire that the decisions issued by this chamber today bring peace to the people of the Republic of Kenya and prevent any sort of hostilities,” judge Trendafilova also said.
She added that the confirmation of the charges was not a guilty verdict, but meant that there is sufficient evidence to send them to trial.
“We are not passing judgment on the guilt or innocence of the individuals.”
In March 2010 chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo was given permission to investigate the six men, three of them aligned with president Mwai Kibaki’s Party of National Unity (PNU) and three others supporting the opposition Orange Democratic Movement of Raila Odinga.
Due to the political and ethnic divisions behind Kenya’s post-election violence, Mr Moreno-Ocampo had asked to bring two separate cases.
In a statement Human Rights Watch welcomed the decisions : “Today’s decisions move forward the search for justice for those who lost their lives and their homes in Kenya’s 2007-2008 election violence.”
“The ICC trials will break with decades of impunity in Kenya for political violence, but Kenya should act to widen accountability by carrying out prosecutions at home.”
Mr Kenyatta and Mr Kibaki’s right-hand man Francis Mutaura, 65, are accused of keeping Kenya’s ruling party at the time in power “through any means necessary”.
They face five counts among which are orchestrating murder, rape, forcible transfer and persecution in the polls’ aftermath, described as “one of the most violent periods in Kenya’s history”.
Prosecutors say Mr Kenyatta met members of a secretive criminal organisation known as Mungiki – which is known for skinning and beheading its victims – before the 2007 election in order to arrange some of the attacks against opposition supporters.
Mr Ruto, 45, and Mr Sang, 36, supported Mr Odinga in the election and they face three counts of murder, forcible transfer and persecution.
They are accused of “carefully orchestrating” attacks against ruling PNU supporters after Mr Odinga accused his opponent of rigging his way to re-election.
While the violence started as political riots, it than turned into a bloody round of score-settling and communal violence.
In the end Mwai Kibaki was declared the winner of the election and is serving his second term as president. Raila Odinga became prime minister under a power-sharing deal brokered by Kofi Annan in order to end the violence.
According to two recent opinion polls the majority of Kenyans back the ICC process as most citizens have little faith in their country’s judiciary, widely perceived as corrupt and choking on a backlog of cases.