International Criminal Court prosecutor Ocampo names six top Kenyans for post-election violence trial

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — Kenya’s finance minister, its former police commissioner, its former higher education minister, and a prominent radio talk-show host are considered to be among the six “most responsible” for the post-election violence following Kenya’s disputed Dec. 27, 2007, elections, according to the prosecutor for the International Criminal Court at The Hague, Netherlands.

Announcing the names of the “most responsible” – William Ruto, Uhuru Kenyatta, Henry Kosgey, Hussein Ali, Joshua Arap Sang, and Francis Muthaura – the ICC’s prosecutor, Luis Moreno Ocampo, said that he expected the accused to cooperate fully with the ICC court.

This week, Mr. Ocampo put stringent restrictions on those he was about to name on human rights crime charges, including bans on contacting other accused politicians and contacting or intimidating witnesses. He has also mandated that they frequently update the ICC about their whereabouts. None of the accused are yet subject to arrest warrants, and all are assumed to be willing to hand themselves over to the court at the Hague to face trial.

The so-called “Ocampo Six” have been accused of organizing violence following the disputed Dec. 27, 2007 elections in Kenya, after the ruling PNU of President Mwai Kibaki and the opposition Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) of Raila Odinga both claimed victory. Evidence of rigging was widespread on both sides, but when the electoral commission declared Mr. Kibaki the winner, violence broke out in opposition strongholds, particularly in the Rift Valley.

Some 1,200 people were killed, many hacked to death by youth militias in their own homes, merely for their ethnicity. Some 300,000 others were displaced from their homes to ramshackle camps near police stations.

The violence stopped only when top representatives from both parties negotiated a temporary government of national unity, a deal brokered by former Ghanaian President John Kufuor and former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. You can read more about this negotiation process in this earlier Monitor series, “How Peace Came to Kenya”:

Africa’s elders seize a leading role

For Kenya, a month of attacks, then quick progress

In Kenya, two protagonists and the conciliators

After two months of discord, finally a handshake

Ocampo plans to try the six accused in two separate cases, and it is significant that the six are evenly distributed between followers of the PNU and the ODM.

Some supporters of likely Ocampo suspects, and particularly a group calling themselves the “Friends of Hon. William Ruto,” had prepared themselves over the past year for a fresh round of violence, hoping to prevent their leaders from being arrested and extradited to face trial at The Hague, according to documents introduced at the ICC as evidence.

At news time, reaction in Kenya remains quiet. Recent polls show that 85 percent of Kenyans support the ICC’s prosecution of poll-violence suspects, although the Kenyan parliament has belatedly suggested creating its own local tribunal to handle the cases.

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