International Criminal Court chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo on Sunday accused the government of pursuing “campaigns” aimed at stopping investigations into the post-election violence.
He said although Kenya had cooperated with ICC in the past, the mood had changed after it named the suspects.
“High-ranking members of the government are misrepresenting ICC efforts to do justice for the victims as an attack against Kenyan sovereignty. They are pursuing regional and political campaigns to stop the case,” he said in a statement.
But in a swift reaction, Justice minister Mutula Kilonzo dismissed the claims as unfounded. He said Kenya was working with the court.
Government spokesman Alfred Mutua challenged the prosecutor to give evidence of who was interfering with investigations and how.
“Mr Moreno-Ocampo should go to court and present the evidence he has instead of making wild allegations,” Dr Mutua said.
The ICC prosecutor said he was pursuing justice for the victims as stated in Agenda Four and would not relent until the goal was met to avoid recurrence of violence at the next General Election.
“My question to the Kenyan Government is this: does the Government of Kenya want justice for the victims? We need an unequivocal answer, an answer that Kenyans and the world could understand. Is the Government of Kenya protecting witnesses or protecting the suspects from investigation? That is the question,” Moreno-Ocampo asked from The Hague.
He said the government was not only sending the wrong signals, but also “promoting a growing climate of fear that is intimidating potential witnesses and ultimately undermining national and international investigations.”
The ICC is investigating six Kenyans accused of masterminding the post-election violence that claimed 1,133 lives.
They are Eldoret North MP William Ruto, Finance minister Uhuru Kenyatta, Head of Public Service Francis Muthaura, Postmaster-General Hussein Ali, radio presenter Joshua arap Sang and Tinderet MP Henry Kosgey.
A delegation from the prosecutor’s office is due in the country on Monday to discuss witness protection with government officials.
“We will assess not just the specific protection programme, but will also want to understand the current position of the Government in relation with the Post-Electoral Violence,” Mr Moreno-Ocampo said.
Kenya has challenged the admissibility of the ICC case, arguing it could try the suspects locally.
Last month the UN Security Council shelved a request by Kenya to defer the ICC cases against the suspects. The court will decide in September whether the suspects have a case to answer.
Last year, the ICC warned that it would request arrest warrants for anyone who tried to threaten witnesses, or their families, and that it was taking steps to identify those responsible for intimidation.
Death threats previously made to some witnesses and their relatives have compelled the ICC to move some key witnesses out of the country.
“Since we announced the names of the six suspects we have seen a shift in position: high ranking members of the government are misrepresenting ICC efforts to do justice for the victims as an attack against Kenyan sovereignty,” Mr Moreno-Ocampo said.
Past opinion polls in Kenya have shown strong public support for the ICC cases. Many feel the government’s quest to thwart the ICC signals a lack of political appetite among leaders to tackle an entrenched culture of impunity.
The government recently filed an application seeking to be heard orally before the ICC. (READ: Kenya wants oral hearing before ICC)
Kenya argues that written pleadings provide a necessary foundation for the consideration of these legal issues, but must be expanded upon in oral argument.
Kenya has also told the judges that the prosecutor should not be permitted to make generalised and unsupported allegations without such assertions being tested forensically before the court.
Kenya, through its British lawyers Geoffrey Nice and Rodney Dixon, argues that the strengths and weaknesses of legal arguments are revealed and best judged through oral argument.
It has requested that the oral hearing take place before the confirmation hearing so that it does not serve to delay the case.