2 September 2010

Kenya: 400 Post-Poll Chaos Victims Apply to Join Hague Trials

Nairobi — Some 396 victims of the 2007 election violence have formally given information to The Hague.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) also revealed that it is protecting an unspecified number of witnesses.

Not all witnesses will testify against the perpetrators of the chaos, the registrar of the court, Ms Silvana Arbia, said.

"We are already protecting witnesses and we will never ask a witness to testify if this puts them at risk," said Ms Arbia.

Ms Arbia is in the country to prepare the ground for the setting up of the local operations of the court.

She said 79 victim applications have been made by communities and 320 by individuals.

The Hague is pitching tent in Kenya and will assess the risk involved in the victims taking part in the trials.

She said the large number of submissions was difficult to manage and added that the court will have to balance its obligations and the expectations of victims.

Victims are required to file applications, explaining why they should be allowed to take part in the proceedings. This can be done before the Pre-Trial Chamber when the prosecutor requests for authorisation to investigate.

Above all, the individuals who want to be represented before the ICC are required to adduce sufficient evidence to prove that they are victims of crime which come under the competence of the court.

And depending on the evidence, the court can either decide to accept the application for representation or dismiss it.

And in the event the victims who need representation are not financially able to hire lawyers, the ICC will pay for their legal representation.

This only happens if the victim asks for financial aid from the court.

The ICC registrar also welcomed the Witness Protection Act which seeks to establish an agency to protect witnesses.

She, however, denied claims that the ICC has already identified individuals to face trial for the death of 1,133 people and the displacement of 650,00 others in the violence that followed the 2007 presidential polls.

Ms Arbia said investigations by prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo were still in the initial stages. She added that the Pre-Trial Chamber II would only issue arrest warrants once it was satisfied with the evidence collected by the prosecutor.

"The prosecutor is still doing his investigations and we do not know when and why the warrant of arrests will be issued," she said.Ms Arbia pointed out that the lack of an arrest mechanism was one of the challenges facing the court.

"The court does not have the mechanism for arrests thus the need for the ICC to seek cooperation with the state parties. I am confident that the Kenyan government will grant us the necessary cooperation," said Ms Arbia.

The ICC official said she was in the country to seek an agreement with the government to ensure that the court's staff who will be in the country will operate "freely and safely".

"We want to ensure that our officers will enjoy this status in terms of privileges and immunity," said Ms Arbia.

On April 1, the court gave the prosecutor the go-ahead to conduct investigations over the post-poll chaos. When he visited the country in May, he said he would return later before seeking warrants from the court in December.

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