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ICC Prosecutor Promises Speed in Kenya Proceedings

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The International Criminal Court's (ICC) chief prosecutor, Luis Moreno Ocampo, ended a crucial visit to Kenya Saturday detailing his plan to speedily investigate and then prosecute the top suspects of the nation's post-election violence. The prosecutor wants to name those to be charged before the campaign season begins for the 2012 elections.

Ocampo announced on Thursday that he was invoking his prosecutorial powers to ask the Court to authorize investigations into crimes committed during the violence following the disputed December 2007 presidential election. The International Criminal Court announced on Friday that the Kenya case had been assigned a pre-trial chamber at the prosecutor's request.

The statement from Ocampo came after Kenya's president and prime minister informed the prosecutor during a face-to-face meeting that they would not refer the case themselves to the ICC.

Kenya is a signatory to the Court's governing statute and is legally obliged to cooperate with the Court's proceedings. The two Kenyan leaders announced they would fulfill their legal requirements under international law.

Ocampo stated that he will try to move the process quickly due to the nation's looming next elections.

"Everyone is worried about the next election in Kenya in 2012," he said. "That's why I understand the importance of speed, and I am working to be sure that during 2010 - if the judges authorize investigations - we will be able to complete investigations and to define who are the suspects, who are the accused, that have to have justice in Kenya. And that will clean the situation [so] that you can have peaceful election [seasons] in 2011 and 2012."

The prosecutor said that his intention was to prosecute those most responsible for the most heinous acts committed during the 2008 chaos. He expects to eventually seek charges against two or three senior Kenyan individuals.

The flawed 2007 presidential election sparked weeks of deadly turmoil concentrated largely along ethic lines. Most of the mob violence took place in urban slums and in Kenya's Rift Valley region.

A couple influential politicians who are likely to hold presidential ambitions in the upcoming poll are among those most speculated to be Ocampo targets. Many fear that ICC indictments could cause renewed outbreaks of violence from supporters of the charged individuals.

While the pre-trial judges must approve Ocampo's request before he can begin formal investigations, the prosecutor expressed confidence that he will receive the authorization he is seeking.

"I think I have a strong case because the Waki Commission is a very good report full of information, and there are other reports," he added. "The U.N. produced reports, different human rights groups produced reports. I believe that we have a strong case."

The Waki Commission, which was headed by a Kenyan judge Philip Waki, but whose two other members were foreigners, was set-up by the Kenyan government to look into the post-election violence.

The findings of the report were kept under seal and handed over to former U.N. chief Kofi Annan, who in July shocked the Kenyan political establishment by handing over the collected evidence to the ICC prosecutor.

Ocampo plans to charge the Kenyan suspects with committing crimes against humanity. He says if the investigation is approved he will return to Kenya to meet personally with the violence victims and to view the sites where the worst crimes took place.