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ICC Prosecutor to Investigate Kenya Election Violence

International Criminal Court prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo gives a press conference, in The Hague, the Netherlands, 01 Apr 2010

The International Criminal Court's chief prosecutor says he will travel to Kenya in May to launch an investigation aimed at bringing the perpetrators of election violence that left some 1,300 people dead two years ago.

During a press conference at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said he hoped to wrap up the bulk of the investigation into Kenya's election violence this year. As many as 1,300 people were killed and hundreds of thousands displaced in clashes that erupted after the disputed vote in December, 2007.

"We will focus on those most responsible in accordance with the evidence that will be collected during the course of our independent and impartial investigation," said the chief prosecutor.

Moreno-Ocampo spoke a day after the ICC gave him the green light to investigate crimes against humanity allegedly committed during the Kenyan violence. Moreno-Ocampo has already given ICC judges a list of 20 suspects - top business and political leaders. All have ties either to Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki's Party of National Union or Prime Minister Raila Odinga's Orange Democratic Movement. But Moreno-Ocampo said the list was not binding, suggesting other suspects could be named.

The ICC's decision has drawn widespread praise, including from former UN chief Kofi Annan and from Kenya's justice minister. Moreno-Ocampo said that every precaution would be taken to ensure witnesses would be protected.

"We'll help Kenyan leaders, women, youth, tribal leaders, religious leaders, judicial leaders, political leaders -- all have a role to play. My duty is to understand them, the respect them. I would like to analyze together how we can work to prevent future violence," he said.

Moreno-Ocampo said the trial was for Kenyans and would be conducted with the help of Kenyans. The ICC is the world's first permanent international court tasked to prosecute war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity.