Hold ICC hearings in Kenya, Amnesty urges

Wednesday June 15 2011

ICC Pre Trial Chamber II Presiding Judge Ekaterina Trendafilova. Amnesty International has said it backs the International Criminal Court's proposal to conduct the confirmation of charges hearings for the Ocampo Six in Kenya June 15, 2011. FILE

ICC Pre Trial Chamber II Presiding Judge Ekaterina Trendafilova. Amnesty International has said it backs the International Criminal Court's proposal to conduct the confirmation of charges hearings for the Ocampo Six in Kenya June 15, 2011. FILE 

By NATION Reporter

Amnesty International has said it backs the International Criminal Court's proposal to conduct the confirmation of charges hearings for the Ocampo Six in Kenya.

The rights organisation said the move, if successful, would bring justice closer to the victims who bore the brunt of the post election violence that left 1,133 people and 650,000 others uprooted from their homes.

“Amnesty International fully supports the ICC proposal to hold the confirmation of charges hearings in Kenya,” said Michelle Kagari, Amnesty International’s deputy Africa director in a statement Wednesday.

“The proposal to hold hearings in Kenya, if implemented, would bring justice closer to victims and their relatives, and locally affected communities. It would not impinge at all the right to fair trial of those accused by the Prosecutor.”

According to AI, the ICC should consider holding such hearings and trials in the states where the crimes were committed so that justice could be served closer to the victims.

It said it was aware of concerns expressed about the security of victims and witnesses in Kenya and urged Kenyan authorities to make sure that security of the proceedings, victims and witnesses is assured.

However, ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo has opposed the suggestion by the Pre-Trial Chamber II that the hearings scheduled for September be held in Kenya.

Mr Moreno-Ocampo argues that security conditions make it impossible to conduct the hearing in the country.

“It is impossible to assume that the Government of Kenya will provide the essential cooperation and substantial protection to enable an effective continuation of the hearings in situ (in its place),” said Mr Moreno-Ocampo.

Post-election violence victims through the Office of Public Counsel for Victims also expressed opposition to the plan arguing that holding the confirmation of charges hearing in Kenya could increase the danger of an outbreak of violence.

“The Pre-Trial Chamber’s initiative in considering holding the confirmation hearings as close as possible to the affected communities is greatly appreciated by the victim applicants.

“The unfortunate reality, however, is that such hearings would not be in the interests of justice given current circumstances,” the victims said.

The Prosecutor and the victims made the observations as the Ocampo Six presented varied observations over the issue.

Tinderet MP Henry Kosgey welcomed the suggestion but argued that “it is desirable and in the interest of justice to conduct confirmation of charges hearings in Kenya.”

He added that it is in the interests of justice that the hearing be conducted within Kenya to enable him mount “an affordable, proportionate and efficient defence.”

Postmaster General Hussein Ali told the judges that he wants the ICC trial to proceed at The Hague, but wants a status conference held by all parties to discuss holding hearings in Kenya.

Head of civil service Francis Muthaura also expressed reservations to holding the hearings in Kenya arguing that unless the Court and the Government are able to adequately provide for the safety and security of the victims and witnesses, and ensure proper and orderly conduct of proceedings he would not support the move.

“Therefore, the defence invites the Court to consider Arusha as the next best alternative to Kenya, in view of the concerns raised by the Defence and which may render the conduct of the confirmation of charges hearing in Kenya not feasible,” said Mr Muthaura.

Eldoret North MP William Ruto and radio presenter Joshua Sang argued that relocating ICC proceedings to Kenya could also create an erroneous perception of the Government and make it seem as if the admissibility case had been predetermined.