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Kenyan TJRC Has Mandate to Recommend Prosecution, Says US Member

One of the three foreigners on the nine-member Kenyan Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) said the commission has the power to recommend prosecution of those it would find committed violations of both international and Kenyan law.

The TJRC was established to look at the history of human rights abuses in Kenya from independence in 1963 to 2008.

Its formation has been criticized by a number of prominent Kenyans. For example, former President Daniel Arap Moi has reportedly said that the TJRC could further divide Kenyans. Nobel Laureate Wangari Maathai also said the Commission would facilitate impunity.

But Ron Slye, the American member of the Kenyan TJRC said the commission is in the early stages of its work.

"We are in the very early days of the process; it's a process that was agreed to by all the political parties at the end of the election violence in 2008 and a set of peace agreement that was brokered by former (U.N.) Secretary General Kofi Annan," he said.

Slye disputed claims by critics that the TJRC would further divide Kenyans.

"My sense is that there is broad support among many Kenyans to want to finally address the abuses that occurred in the past, and I have every confidence that we will do that," Slye said.

He said the commission has powers under its mandate to recommend prosecution of those it would find committed violations of both international and Kenyan law.

"We do have very clearly the power to recommend prosecution if we discover that there's evidence of individuals who have committed both violation of international criminal law and Kenyan law," Slye said.

Slye disagreed with Nobel Laureate Wangari Maathai that the Commission would perpetuate the culture of impunity which she said was started in Kenya by the early explorers.

"The commission itself was not set up to further impunity, and certainly all of the individuals who have been appointed on the commission do not have that purpose," Slye said.

However, he said Maathai and other Kenyan human rights activists have an important role to play in keeping a close eye not only on the commission but on the Kenyan government to make sure they do what the commission was set up to do.

Slye said the Kenyan truth commission has a two-year time period within which to do its work.

He said prior to the start of the two-year mandate, the commission has a three-month preparatory period within which it may hire staff, secure offices and prioritize its mandate.

The foreign members of the Kenyan TJRC were appointed by the Panel of Eminent African Personalities headed by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. The other two members are from Zambia and Ethiopia.