16 November 2013

Kenya: ICC Registrar Cancels Trip to Kenya

Photo: Julius Mwelu/IRIN
A pregnant woman runs past burning shacks in Nairobi during the 2007 post-election violence which led to the trials.

International Criminal Court Registrar Herman von Hebel who was scheduled to make his debut visit to Kenya this week has cancelled his trip under contentious circumstances.

Hebel was scheduled to visit Kenya on Thursday and Friday and to meet with select Kenyan government leaders as well as visit the ICC's office in Nairobi. Prior to his visit, ICC informed the government of several conditions that had to be met as far his security and access to government officials was concerned.

However, multiple government sources claimed the trip was cancelled after the government refused to meet these conditions.

Yesterday, the ICC office said the trip had been cancelled because the '"relevant national Kenyan authorities" whom the Registrar intended to meet are due to be at the Hague next week for the Assembly of State Parties meeting.

"It was thus agreed to take advantage of their presence there and to change the location of the meeting to The Hague on the margins of the Assembly of States session," the ICC Outreach Coordinator in Kenya Mariah Kamara said.

She said that during the Hague meeting, the registrar would discuss with Kenyan leaders the "modalities for the continued coordination" between the government of Kenya and the ICC Registry as well as the opportunity and timing of a future visit to Nairobi.

But according to sources at State House, they said the conditions the ICC had requested for Hebel's visit involved his transport, security and accomodation which the government was unable or unwilling to provide. The sources declined to give the specific conditions that the ICC had made as far as Hebel's visit was concerned.

"The ICC demanded a certain level of protocol; the kind of security to be provided to him, the kind of limousine that he would be driven in, the vehicles to escort him and the kind of hotel he would stay in. Initially, the ministry of Foreign Affairs did not respond. Eventually when it did, it was to reject the terms," one of the State House sources said.

Other sources indicated that the visit was not publicized and there was no itinerary prepared. And unlike previous visits by other court officials, Hebel's office had not indicated which government officials he wanted to meet during his intended visit.

Previously, former Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo, his successor Fatou Bensouda have visited the country and held discussions with top leaders including former President Mwai Kibaki.

The former ICC registrar Silvana Arbia also visited the country in 2011 and held discussions with government officials.

The sources said the intended visit by Hebel had given the government the impression that his objective was to meet with civil society groups which have been working with the court as well as the Kenya Editors Guild.

Yesterday, Kamara denied these claims and said as the head of the neutral organ of the court, Hebel was in charge of cooperation and communication between the ICC and the government.

"The Registrar is also in charge of external offices of the Court, and would have also visited the ICC office in Nairobi and discussed with the ICC staff administrative matters of interest," she said.

She did not however explain why the registry had not factored the possibility of the Kenyan leaders being at the ASP meeting which was planned a long time ago.

Kenya is also yet to confirm its representatives at the ASP meeting next week. Its speakers slot at the ASP general debate session remained blank on the programme posted on the ICC website.

Hebel took office in April 2013 replacing Silvana Arbia. He is in charge of ICC's non-judicial aspects of the Court's administration among them providing administrative and operational support to the judiciary and to all parties and participants to the proceedings.

He is also responsible for the development of effective mechanisms to protect witnesses, assisting the defence teams and conduct outreach activities, among others.

If Hebel came, he would have been the first high ranking court official to visit Kenya after the March 4 elections when Uhuru and Ruto, who are both suspects at the court were elected into office.

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