27 July 2012

Kenya: Uhuru, Ruto Must Go to ICC Even If Elected

DEPUTY Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta and Eldoret North MP William Ruto will still have to stand trial even if they are elected president in March 2013. Visiting ICC officials Phakiso Mochochoko and Shamiso Mbizvo told a press conference yesterday that a President Uhuru or President Ruto would be treated like any other accused person and would be required to be present at the Hague throughout the trial.

Uhuru and Ruto are due to go trial at the Hague from April 10 and 11 on charges of crimes against humanity arising from the post-election violence in 2008. Both Uhuru and Ruto have insisted that they will stand for president next March for the TNA and URP parties respectively despite the ICC charges. Former cabinet secretary Francis Muthaura and radio journalist Joshua Sang are their co-defendants at the Hague.

Warrants of arrest will be issued against them if they do not go to the Hague, Mochochoko said, but they will remain free so long as they attend all trial proceedings. "Who gets elected is a matter for Kenyans to decide. There is however no immunity for crimes under the Rome Statute. Whether you are a president or a king, it does not matter," said Mochochoko who heads the jurisdiction, complementarity and cooperation division in the office of the prosecutor.

Mochochoko said the ICC does not anticipate any cooperation problems with the Kenyan state in the event of a Ruto or Uhuru presidency. He said cooperation is unconditional and does not depend on the status of the accused. Mochochoko said the Kenyan state has not turned down a single cooperation request since the ICC started working in Kenya. He said there have been a few delays but Kenya has always kept its word.

He said the ICC came to Kenya after consultations with the government and the people and will only leave after there are judgements in the two cases. "The cases against the four accused will go on irrespective of the election outcome. Kenya is under an obligation as a state party to the Rome Statute to cooperate with the court. It has done that and we are sure it will continue to do so to the last stage of the process," he said. "We will cross the bridge when we get there," Mochochoko said when asked what the ICC would do if an accused person refused to go for trial at the Hague like Sudanese president Omar al Bashir,

He said the cases could only be removed from the Hague if the Rome Statute is followed and the court agrees. "Automatic takeover of the cases is a fiction. You cannot start a court today and take over the cases tomorrow. You must come to the court, the prosecution will be invited to argue this out and eventually the judges will decide," he said.

The ICC officials yesterday met Attorney General Githu Muigai and the cabinet sub-committee on ICC. They raised the issue of witness intimidation and government recommitted itself to cooperate with the court. Mochochoko confirmed he was reading Peeling Back the Mask by Prime Minister Raila Odinga's former aide Miguna Miguna. "The book is an interesting read. We are all reading it. Whether it will form part of the evidence in the ongoing cases is something I cannot comment on," he said.

He said Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda's message to Kenyans is that there will be no structural or policy changes in her office. All cases currently lodged with the ICC by her office will continue and the office will continue to gather more evidence. Mochochoko said he had discussed with government the possibility of a visit by Bensouda who replaced Louis Moreno Ocampo last month. The ICC officials will today meet civil society activists and other interest groups before flying back to the Hague this evening.

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