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ICC to Request Reduced Powers for Kenyan Suspect

International Criminal Court Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo (File Photo)

As Kenya attempts to halt an International Criminal Court case against six of its nationals, the court’s prosecutor is questioning the role that one of the suspects plays in the current government.

Speaking via video link from The Hague late Monday, International Criminal Court Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo revealed the court was preparing to send a letter advising the Kenyan government about the head of the civil service, Francis Muthaura.

“We are preparing a letter to the Kenyan government asking, in particular, the current role of Mr. Muthaura," he said. "Because Muthaura has, still, authority on the police. If he will remain in this position, something should be done to ensure that the police will not work for him or protect his interests.”

The prosecutor said removing Muthaura’s authority over Kenyan police is necessary to prevent any testimony against the Kenyan official from reaching his office. Moreno-Ocampo said such steps were critical to ensure the safety of ICC witnesses.

With investigations ongoing, Muthaura and five other Kenyans are required to appear before the court for an initial hearing on April 7.

On March 9, the judges at The Hague issued summons for the six suspects named in the prosecutor’s inquiry into ethnic violence that followed Kenya's disputed presidential vote in December 2007.

President Mwai Kibaki and his election rival, current Prime Minister Raila Odinga, accused each other of fraud, sparking nationwide protests that devolved into near civil war. Some 1,300 people were killed and more than 300,000 were displaced by the violence, many of whom remain without homes over three years later.

Late Monday, Government Spokesman Alfred Mutua issued a statement calling the prosecutor’s statement “strange and un-procedural.” Mutua’s statement reaffirmed Kenya's commitment to the court but said the government would maintain the “status quo” until the ICC letter is received.

The ICC request regarding Muthaura comes as Kenya continues to lobby members of the United Nations Security Council in a bid to defer the trial. The Security Council has the power, under the ICC's governing statute, to suspend a trial for one year if it is found to threaten international peace or security.

The Kenyan government is asking for an opportunity to try the six suspects locally, using judicial reforms envisioned under the country’s new constitution. But human rights groups both locally and internationally have argued that Kenya’s case does not present grounds for deferral under the ICC's laws.

Within the coalition government, rifts are developing which threaten to undermine the deferral campaign. Kenya’s Daily Nation reported Monday that Odinga’s Orange Democratic Movement has sent a letter to the Security Council, asking the body to reject the request for deferral. According to reports, the letter claimed the deferral efforts had been organized by the six ICC suspects and held the request as evidence of President Kibaki’s inability to address the post-election violence.