Kenyan leaders appear at Hague court over killings

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Three Kenyans appeared at the International Criminal Court and denied they had any connection with violence in which 1,200 people were killed after disputed elections in 2007.

Suspended government ministers William Ruto and Henry Kosgey and radio executive Joshua Arap Sang attended the court to hear themselves charged with crimes against humanity, including murder, forcible transfer and persecution.

Presiding judge Ekaterina Trendafilova ordered the suspects not to make any “dangerous speeches” to incite violence as this could be seen as “inducement” and lead to their summons to the court hearings being replaced with arrest warrants, Reuters reports.

The ICC has summonsed six top political, government and business officials to appear in court over two days this week in connection with the 2007-08 violence in Kenya between the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) and the Party of National Unity.

The bloodshed badly damaged Kenya’s reputation for stability in a turbulent region.
“We have absolutely no reason to be here. We are innocent people,” Ruto told reporters, after singing the Kenyan national anthem outside the court with other Kenyan politicians.

In the second of the two cases prosecutors are presenting to the world’s first permanent war crimes court, Cabinet Secretary Francis Muthaura, Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta and former police chief Hussein Ali are due to appear on Friday on charges of murder, forcible transfer, rape and persecution.
“It’s about time for the judicial process to begin. The country deserves closure,” Kenyan Justice Minister Mutula Kilonzo said in Nairobi.

CONCERNS

Both Ruto and Kosgey said they had not yet been given full details of the alleged crimes.
“I have no guilt, none at all, and it is my belief that this case will show that I have no guilt whatsoever,” Kosgey, speaking in Swahili, told Kenya Television Network (KTN).

Sang, who appeared with his arm in a sling after breaking it in an accident last week, said: “I am an innocent journalist.”

Kenyan television stations beamed the court proceedings live to viewers gathered in homes, offices and public places.
“I want to believe the ICC process will be as fair as possible to both the suspects and the victims of the post-election violence,” Julius Bitok, a university lecturer in Eldoret, the centre of the first attacks, told KTN.

Before the hearing, a group of 40 Kenyan members of parliament gathered to protest against the ICC proceedings.
“We are opposed to ICC trials as we feel we are able to handle our cases and this is not right,” said Mohamud Ali, a member of parliament for Moyale in the north of the country.

The court set a date of April 18 for a status hearing to establish an “adequate calendar of disclosure” before a confirmation of charges hearing on September 1 after which judges need to decide whether the suspects should go to trial.

The Kenyan government has objected to the ICC proceedings, requesting judges to declare both cases inadmissible.

Kenya argues that adoption of the country’s new constitution and other reforms have opened the way for it to conduct its own prosecutions for the post-election violence.
“Promises are not enough,” ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo told reporters. “You have to prove there is a national case for the same incidents, the same individuals and the same charges. There is nothing like that in the challenge.”

The prosecutor also welcomed indications from ICC judges that they would work “very fast” in coming to a decision.



ICC judges must decide whether Kenya, rather than the court, has jurisdiction to try the cases, but its own judicial proceedings will not be halted until that decision is made.