TRIALS of the Ocampo Four at the Hague are likely to start in September.
The ICC prosecutor's office has advised witnesses to be ready for the trials from September. They have been told to be on standby to begin testifying either in the month of September or latest October. The key witnesses have also been asked to indicate how they want to give their evidence. "We have been informed that trial will begin exactly three month after the status conference. We have also been put on notice that we will be required to testify either publicly or in secret", said one witness who is under protection outside Africa.
Yesterday ICC's outreach coordinator for Kenya Mariah Kamara said "no decision has been made up to now" on the trial date. "The status conference slated for next week will discuss, among other agenda items, the possible date for the opening of the trial," she said. "The judges will decide, next week or later, taking into consideration the arguments and requests of parties and participants and different factors, to ensure the fairness of the trials," Kamara said. The status conferences for the suspects will be on Monday and Tuesday next week.
The four Kenyans charged with crimes against humanity after the post-election violence are Eldoret North MP William Ruto, Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta, former Civil Service boss Francis Muthaura and radio presenter Joshua Arap Sang. The ICC have asked the suspects to indicate the dates on which they would wish the trials to begin.
Defence lawyers are traveling to the Hague this weekend for the status conferences to be held on June 11 and 12. The conferences are expected to set the trial dates as well as to resolve issues such as the disclosure of evidence. "We were told that the judges may slightly change the dates but the prosecution is ready to begin in September," said the witness.
Trial Chamber V with judges Christine Van den Wyngaert (Belgium), Kuniko Ozaki (Japan) and Chile Eboe-Osuji (Nigeria) will handle the Kenyan cases. Incoming Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda will lead the prosecution. The ICC may follow its own timetable despite Ruto applying to have his case postponed until after the election so that he can stand for president. In his submission ahead of the status conference, Uhuru applied to have the cases heard locally in either Nairobi or Arusha. The judges have apparently indicated their willingness to start the hearings as soon as possible, according to sources at The Hague.
More than 20 witnesses for the prosecution have been asked to indicate if they will be ready to testify either in public or want to testify in private. "As for me I will testify in public if need be", said one witness. The prosecution has so far not revealed the identity of its witnesses despite demands by defense lawyers. Recently Ocampo complained about witness security but the ICC has since relocated some witnesses and placed them under tighter security. If the cases start in September, that will complicate the plans of Ruto and Uhuru who want to stand for president in 2013.
However sources at the Hague indicate that the judges will only go by the provisions of the ICC statutes and will not take local politics into consideration. Two weeks ago ICC investigators and top lawyers were in Kenya and looked at possible new evidence but a decision was yet to be made on whether to fly out the witnesses who had testified before the Waki Commission. Most of the possible new witnesses are from Naivasha and Nairobi.
The ICC investigators also visited to post election violence hot spots in Eldoret, Naivasha and Nakuru to look further at the possible planning of the violence. The team led by a lawyer from Burkina Faso spoke to more than 100 people including victims and individuals mentioned in the Waki Commission report. Some potential witnesses went for further interrogation at undisclosed locations. The violence after the botched December 2007 election claimed the lives of more than 1,300 Kenyans while another 300,000 were displaced mainly in the Rift Valley. At the status conference next week, the suspects will not be required to be present and they will send their lawyers for the meeting.