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UN Rights Official Backs Kenya Tribunal


The United Nations' deputy high commissioner for human rights has endorsed the establishment of a tribunal in Kenya to try those responsible for violence that followed December's presidential elections. She made the remarks at the end of a four-day visit to Kenya. Derek Kilner reports from Nairobi.

Kyung-wha Kang urged Kenya to adopt the findings of a commission set up to investigate the post-election violence, in which over 1,100 people were killed, and hundreds of thousands displaced.

"I've had short but good discussion with the prime minister with the justice minister with civil society actors with the U.N. country teams with the donor community on how it is very important for the commission report to be acted upon," she said.

The commission, led by Kenyan judge Philip Waki, recently released its findings in a 500-page report. The report calls for the establishment of an independent tribunal to try those suspected of the deepest responsibility for the violence. Waki has said this includes prominent political and business leaders, but no names have yet been released.

Kang said the commission's findings echoed those of a U.N. investigation carried out in February, and said her office would be ready to support the tribunal.

"We expressed our readiness to support the Kenyan endeavors in this regard," she said. "For example we can help in drafting the statute of the special tribunal. The commission recommends that the tribunal have an international component to that and we can certainly help in identifying the international expertise that can be part of the exercise.

On Thursday, Kenya's parliament approved the creation of a Truth, Justice, and Reconciliation Commission, consisting of nine Kenyan and international members, to investigate crimes stretching back to the country's independence in 1963.

The fate of the tribunal proposed by the Waki commission is less clear, with both parties in the country's grand coalition government appearing divided. Both President Mwai Kibaki, who heads the Party of National Unity, and Prime Minister Raila Odinga, who led the Orange Democratic Movement in last year's elections, have endorsed the commission's findings. But key figures in both parties have also denounced the report.

Waki has said that if the tribunal is not established by the beginning of March, the names of suspects will be forwarded to the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

Kang made her remarks at the end of a four-day visit to Kenya, in which she attended the International Conference of National Human Rights Institutions, and visited a camp for refugees from Somalia in northern Kenya.

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