EU backs ICC’s Kenya case, open to local tribunal


The European Union would back a credible local tribunal to hear Kenya’s post-election violence cases but swift political action must replace the rhetoric promising reform, said a top EU diplomat.

Six suspected masterminds of the chaos that erupted after the disputed election of December 2007 have been summoned to the International Criminal Court in early April but Kenya is fighting to have the cases deferred by a year.

Nicholas Westcott, the EU’s Managing Director for Africa, said Brussels fully supported the ICC’s investigation but the option of a local legal process remained open to Kenya if it established the necessary judicial institutions, Reuters reports.
“There has been quite a lot of discussion on judicial reform (in Kenya), rather more than action. A lot of action would be needed quite swiftly to create a credible local alternative,” Westcott told a news conference.

Legal experts say the ICC would need to consider a number of factors in deciding on whether to allow a local tribunal.

They say the court would need to be reassured the establishment of a tribunal would not drag, the proposed judges would be appropriately vetted and that a robust witness protection system be put in place.
“Our one concern is that justice should be seen to done for the benefit of the Kenyan people … and for the culture of impunity to be brought to an end. How it is done is secondary,” Westcott said.

Past opinion polls have shown strong public support for the ICC cases. Many feel the government’s quest to thwart the ICC signals a lack of political appetite among leaders to tackle an entrenched culture of impunity.

Some political analysts say President Mwai Kibaki’s drive to block the ICC process is more to prevent evidence emerging that could taint him than to shield cabinet allies. Among the six suspects named by The Hague-based court are Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta and suspended Higher Education Minister William Ruto.