Judges at the International Criminal Court have issued summonses for the six Kenyans suspected of organizing the country’s post-election violence over three years ago.
More than two months after the ICC prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, revealed the so-called “Ocampo Six” under investigation for crimes against humanity in Kenya, the court’s pre-trial chamber has issued summonses for the suspects to appear at the court for an initial hearing on April 7.
Ocampo’s list of suspects includes prominent politicians Henry Kosgey, William Ruto and Uhuru Kenyatta, as well as radio journalist Joshua Arap Sang, head of civil service Francis Muthaura and former police commissioner Hussein Ali.
More than 1,300 were killed and more than 300,000 were displaced in ethnic violence that engulfed Kenya in the wake of the disputed 2007 presidential election.
The six have been accused by the prosecutor of being indirect co-conspirators in the chaos by financing and organizing the violence. The court decided to bring all six to The Hague, but as ICC officer Fadi El Abdallah explained, the judges of the pre-trial chamber did not agree with Ocampo’s assessment of Ali or Sang.
“The judges considered that they have reasonable grounds to believe that Mr. Ali and Mr. Sang contributed to the commission the alleged crime, but their participation was not essential for the commission of the crimes and they did not have the authority to stop it from being committed or to order it or to solicit it,” said Abdallah.
Both Ali and Sang could still face charges at the Court, but would not be considered among the most responsible perpetrators targeted by the prosecutor.
The court summonses come in the midst of a Kenyan charm offensive aimed at members of the United Nations Security council in a bid to defer the trial. Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka is leading a team of government ministers lobbying a one-year deferral so Kenya can try the suspects locally. The Kenyan government argues that judicial reforms envisioned under the new constitution will help make such trials a reality.
In the months since the announcement of the "Ocampo Six", there also has been a very public backlash against the International Criminal Court. After the names were revealed, many Kenyan politicians accused the ICC of an anti-African bias and dismissed it as a colonial institution.
Civil society leaders in Kenya, however, are criticizing the about-face of Kenya’s politicians, and many have initiated separate campaigns to support the ICC process. The new chairman of the National Council of Non-Governmental Organizations, Ken Wafula, said the attempt to defer Kenya’s case goes against the wishes of the people.
"There is a wrong perception that has been created, that the Kenyan people are calling for a deferral of the ICC cases," said Wafula. "What we want to drive across is that is not true. The majority of the people want the trials at the ICC to continue. They do not want deferral.”
Wafula is helping direct a petition against the Kenyan ministers' lobbying efforts. He told VOA that, with the support of several Kenyan NGOs, around 800,000 signatures in support of the ICC process had been collected. The group plans to submit the petition to the U.N. Security Council in around two weeks, when it hopes to have more than one million names.