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ICC Trial for Kenya to Proceed Despite Election

Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda of the International Criminal Court (ICC) sits in the ICC courtroom in the Hague, July 10, 2012.

Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda of the International Criminal Court (ICC) sits in the ICC courtroom in the Hague, July 10, 2012.

The trial of four prominent Kenyans, including two presidential candidates, will go ahead in April as planned, even though the trial will take place near Kenya's March 4 general election. The International Criminal Court's chief prosecutor made the announcement Monday as she began a five-day visit to Kenya.

As Kenyans prepare to vote in a presidential election early next year, visiting International Criminal Court Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda emphasizes that the country's political future is in the hands of its electorate. But, she says, the ICC judicial process will take its own course.

“We are a judicial institution," she said. "This process going on is a political one. Let the political process go on, but the ICC judicial process will also go on and the calendar that has been set by the judges will also be followed.”

Kenya exploded in riots and ethnic violence in January 2008 after both candidates, President Mwai Kibaki and now Prime Minister Raila Odinga, claimed victory in the presidential run-off vote. At least 1,300 Kenyans were killed and more than a quarter of a million were uprooted from their homes.

The International Criminal Court in the Hague has brought charges against presidential candidates Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto, as well as a government official and a radio presenter, for allegedly helping to organize the violence.

In her five-day stay in Kenya, Prosecutor Bensouda will visit Rift Valley region, the epicenter of the 2008 post-election violence.

Bensouda said in a situation in which no one is doing justice for the victims, it is her mandate to investigate and prosecute those responsible for crimes against humanity.

“Our purpose, my purpose, is to seek the truth," she said. "By doing so, by bringing justice, we can provide some solace to survivors, restore dignity to shattered lives and the memory of those who were killed. We do this with utter respect.”

Bensouda stressed the people and the government of Kenya are not on trial, only individuals accused of criminal responsibility.

She is also expected to meet with President Kibaki and Prime Minister Odinga.
Bensouda was nominated and supported by the African Union for the position of ICC prosecutor late last year, replacing Luis Moreno Ocampo.