14 February 2013

Kenya: NCCK Warns Uhuru Ruto Over Hague

Kenyan International Criminal Court suspects want the court to postpone commencement date of their trials over what they claim to be prosecutions ... ( Resource: Kenyan ICC Suspects Request Trials Be Delayed )

THE National Council of Churches of Kenya, yesterday warned that it will be difficult for Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta and his running mate William Ruto to run the government from the Hague.

Their trials at the ICC on charges of crimes against humanity are due to start on April 10 and 11, the same date set for a possible run-off in the presidential election.

"It will not be easy running a government while away as compared to from State House, but we ask Kenyans to exercise their discretion and vote as they want," said NCCK Secretary General Rev Canon Peter Karanja yesterday after a two-day meeting at the Jumuia Conference and Retreat Centre in Limuru.

The High Court is due to rule tomorrow if Uhuru and Ruto are eligible to contest the presidency on grounds of integrity. "We ask for the law to be followed as we await the court ruling on Friday," he said.

The press conference was attended by the NCCK chairperson Rev Canon Rosemary Mbogoh, deputy secretary Oliver Kisaka and Zion Harvest Mission Bishop Nicolas Oloo.

The council condemned the recent criticism of diplomats who stated last week that there will be "consequences" if Kenyans elect Uhuru and Ruto as president and deputy president.

"NCCK appreciates the interests of the foreign missions, European Union and African Union, because they helped us when the country went haywire and it is not fair to ridicule them," he said.

The NCCK statement warned against tribal balkanization, called for more voter education by the IEBC, urged politicians to focus on issues, and asked President Kibaki to gazette the new National Land Commission.

Yesterday Danish ambassador Geert Andersen became the latest envoy to speak about Uhuru and Ruto. In Eldoret, Andersen asked them to cooperate with the ICC even if they win election on March 4.

Andersen said Denmark will only review its diplomatic relations with Kenya if the suspects refuse to work with the ICC. However the EU countries will maintain their present 'no contact' policy with ICC indictees.

Uhuru and Ruto will participate by video link in a pre-trial status conference today. ICC Outreach coordinator Maria Kamara said the location of the video conference would remain secret for security reasons adding that the venue had been agreed by the court with the Kenyan authorities.

"The location of the video link is made confidential for security reasons," Kamara said. Crowne Plaza Hotel, InterContinental Hotel and Ole Sereni Hotel in Nairobi had initially been proposed as possible locations the UN compound in Nairobi was ruled out.

The UN offices in Gigiri would first need to write to the UN headquarters in New York for permission to allow Uhuru and Ruto into the premises.

The UN has a 'no contact' policy with ICC indictees just like the European Union. Uhuru and Ruto decided not to go to the Hague for the status conference as they are busy campaigning.

The Deputy Prime Minister had indicated that the video link system shows it would be possible to run government from the Hague. Uhuru's status conference will be streamed live today at 11.30am while Ruto's will be at 4.30pm.

The parties will address practical, financial and legal matters related to their attendance at trial, including their accommodation. Some issues likely to be raised by the defence and the prosecution have already emerged.

Yesterday ICC President Sang-Hyun Song said the Kenyan case was "difficult." Song said the trials are meant to start in April but "since there are so many variables here, we don't know what's going to happen."

"At the moment, I must admit that the logistics aspect of the Kenya case, for example, is not necessarily easy," Justice Song said at Columbia University in New York on Tuesday.

In an interview with German broadcaster Deutsche Welle on Tuesday, Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said she hopes to encourage non-members such as the US, China, Russia and India to rethink their relations with the court.

"Lately, with the opening of investigations into Mali, obviously there is a need to source the contingency fund to get additional resources to be able to investigate. But I have to say that the office is very stretched at the moment. We are overstretched in trying to take care of all the situations that are now before us," Bensouda said.

"A couple of years back we had a few cases. The resources, the people, the staff - there has been almost an explosion of cases. So if you just do the math you will see that really there is a need for the state parties to look into the resources that the ICC has to be able to deal with situations adequately and do quality investigations," Bensouda said.

Despite the lack of resources, Bensouda said the ICC was making good progress. "I would say we are making progress in all of them. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo cases, they are already in court and the trial is proceeding. Also, the two Darfur cases, which are against those who attacked the Haskanita base in 2007, are progressing. But also the Laurent Gbagbo case is progressing. We have a date for a confirmation hearing. In the Kenya cases there is progress as well. A trial date has been set for both cases and we hope to start in April," she said.

Yesterday the British government has donated £500,000 (Sh67.3 million) to the ICC Trust Fund for Victims as part of the G8 Initiative on preventing sexual violence in conflict.

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