The International Criminal Court prosecutor believes he has a strong case against a few people for crimes committed during Kenya’s post-election violence and he will move fast to avoid a repeat at the 2012 election.
Chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo told a news conference there was also a chance any trial could take place in Kenya, or at the court in Arusha in Tanzania where suspects from Rwanda’s 1994 genocide have been prosecuted.
“We have so many reports saying the same, I think I have a strong case,” Moreno-Ocampo said told a news conference.
“Probably here will be two or three different cases, because there are different groups who committed crimes and we will identify the most responsible for each group.”
Ethnic clashes after a disputed presidential election killed at least 1300 people and uprooted more than 300 000, shattering Kenya’s image as a stable, regional economic powerhouse.
Luis Moreno-Ocampo met President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga on Thursday and told them he would request the green light for an investigation in December from the ICC’s pre-trial judges.
He said his decision to proceed unilaterally was because the Kenyan leaders had decided against referring the case themselves to The Hague, but they had promised to cooperate.
During a visit to Kenya in October, crisis mediator Kofi Annan warned that unless the architects of the killings were brought to book, there was a serious risk violence would erupt again at the next presidential election in 2012.
In July, he gave Moreno-Ocampo a list of the top suspects identified in a report by a Kenyan judge. Political sources say it includes cabinet ministers, parliamentarians and businessmen.
“My mandate is to end impunity of the most serious crimes. I will do that,” said Moreno-Ocampo.
“Everybody is worried about the next election in Kenya in 2012. That’s why I understand the importance of speed.”
He said that assuming he gets the go-ahead from the ICC pre-trial judges to proceed in December, the investigation should be completed during 2010 and the suspects defined.
“And that will clean the situation, (so) that you can have peaceful election.”
The 2002 Rome Treaty established the ICC, the world’s first permanent court set up to try individuals for genocide, war crimes and other major human rights violations.
The prosecutor said in other cases he had undertaken outside Kenya, the people charged by the ICC were those deemed to be the leaders of militias responsible for carrying out serious crimes.
He said that if Kenya investigated the same people for the same crimes as the ICC, he could defer to a tribunal there, but it would be the ICC judges who would decide whether that would happen.
Kenya had promised to deal with the masterminds. But numerous attempts to kick-start the process have floundered and many Kenyans are sceptical powerful individuals will be arrested and charged because of widespread impunity among politicians.
“We expect to do the cases in four, five, six months that is our style and that is what we are trying to do,” Moreno-Ocampo said at the end of a three-day visit to Kenya.
Pic: Victims of the 1994 Rwanda Genocide