13 July 2012

Kenya: Ruto Hate Speech Probe May Trigger ICC Interest

Stalled hate speech investigations against Eldoret North MP William Ruto are likely to trigger the interest of the International Criminal Court. Ruto, alongside energy minister Kiraitu Murungi, is facing hate-speech investigations triggered by the Law Society of Kenya through Public Prosecutions director Keriako Tobiko. The Eldoret North MP owes his continued liberty to conditions slapped on all ICC suspects early last year when they appeared at The Hague, Netherlands, to honour their initial summonses.

The conditions were that Ruto should not contact witnesses or victims of the crimes he is charged with, refrain from corruptly influencing witnesses, committing crimes set in Rome statute and attend all hearings. During the confirmation of charges hearing last September, the judges added another condition prohibiting hate speech. "The Judges also recalled, in their last open court session that their previous warning to the suspects that their continued liberty is subject to their non-engagement in incitement of violence or hate speech," ICC spokesman Fadi Abdalla told the Star in February.

Although the DPP wrote to the National Cohesion and Integration Commission asking them to record Ruto and Kiraitu, the Star has established that the process has stalled. Yesterday, NCIC chairman Mzalendo Kibunjia said he had invited LSK to help in analysing the primary evidence they had against the two. LSK chairman Eric Mutua, however, denied that the society had received any such invitation. "We wrote to the LSK and asked them to come to a meeting to help in examining the evidence. The purpose was to check if the evidence available can withstand a court trial. We also needed to satisfy ourselves that Section 13 of the Cohesion Act was indeed violated," said Kibunjia.

The investigations against Ruto and Kiraitu were ordered by Tobiko after LSK threatened to institute private prosecution. "I forward herewith the three audio/visual CDs and request you pursuant to your legal mandate to open an inquiry on the matter," Tobiko wrote to NCIC on June 23. Tobiko requested NCIC to analyse the audio/visual CDs and to "record statements" from Kiraitu and Ruto. "On completion, forward the inquiry file to this office with your findings and recommendations thereon," said Tobiko.

The materials initially forwarded to Tobiko by LSK include recordings of utterances made by the two at Gema and Kamatusa meetings this year. Yesterday, Mutua said the society's complaint against Ruto was not linked in any way to the ICC matter. "Our complaint is independent of any other body, including the ICC. We have a duty to this country and this is what we are executing," he said on the phone. The NCIC Act criminalises the use of hate speech in Kenya. It bars the use of threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour in any medium if they are intended to stir up ethnic hatred.

The Act is also applicable if "having regard to all the circumstances, ethnic hatred is likely to be stirred up" by such utterances. Section 13 of the Act prescribes a fine of one million shillings or imprisonment term of three years or both. "Ethnic hatred" means hatred against a "group of persons defined by reference to colour, race, nationality (including citizenship) or ethnic or national origins."

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