Time up: Ocampo closing in on post-poll chaos suspects
The political and business careers of prime suspects of 2007 post-election violence could be over in six months — ICC Prosecutor Louis Moreno-Ocampo plans to issue indictments and render them Most Wanted Persons globally.
Yesterday, the International Criminal Court prosecutor, who jets into the country in a week, was categorical about his mission — those with the most responsibility should go to jail. And he was clear about his prized targets: "The violence was committed by people aiming for seats in the Cabinet and those (who were) keen to gain power".
The nature of international justice is that once indicted, a person basically becomes most wanted in signatory nations and could be arrested and turned in to the international court sheriffs.
The Argentine-born prosecutor — who advanced his case last month after successfully presenting sufficient evidence to convince the Pre-Trial Chamber to allow investigations — expects to easily nail the suspects.
Said he: "I would not do a lot, I would do a couple of cases against the most responsible, that’s it.
"So it would not be the end of the story… it would be the beginning of the story but I believe this would help a lot to understand that there is no more violence because those who committed violence in 2007/2008 were aiming to have a seat in the Cabinet or more power".
His argument may be hinged on the belief that there was significant evidence collected in the poll chaos — triggered by a disputed presidential election pitting ruling principals Raila Odinga and Mwai Kibaki — by local and international intelligence agencies, including human rights bodies.
Part of it was presented to and documented by the Waki Commission, the Kenya National Human Rights Commission and other organizations and individuals.
Ocampo packs his travel bags at a time when controversy rages at the KNCHR where witnesses have accused a commissioner of colluding with a key suspect to compromise their security.
Under Ocampo’s microscope are 20 powerful individuals in the Cabinet (from both ODM and PNU), powerful politicians and prominent businessmen.
The ICC — that is widely expected to radically alter the political landscape with the removal of some key actors — would narrow down to those with the greatest responsibility, said Ocampo, who reiterated that the ICC was keen to help Kenya stamp out impunity.
"We need political leaders, they have to run (for office) but they cannot commit massive crimes to gain power. So you commit massive crimes, you go to jail, that simple," said the prosecutor.
The prosecutor has embarked on the most crucial phase of his case in which key suspects would end up either submitting themselves before the court or risk being arrested.
And it will be the turn of post-election victims to tell their harrowing tales in their continued quest for justice.
Already the ICC has proceeded with speed to secure witnesses believed to have been threatened, and some have been accorded a safe haven in European countries.
Warrants of arrest
Yesterday, the ICC announced it would issue warrants of arrest in September or October, this year.
Ocampo will be in the country for five days starting May 8, and will meet the principals and some of the victims.
In a dispatch to newsrooms last night, the ICC said: "The Kenyan Government has reiterated its willingness to provide any assistance that the office of the Prosecutor may require to ensure the success of the visit".
Earlier, Ocampo said once the warrants are issued the perpetrator would either voluntarily offer himself or herself to The Hague or risk arrest.
"You commit violence you have a seat in the jail, you go to prison in The Hague. So that is the message and that is how to avoid what happened again," he said.
Political careers are on the line because those who will be subpoenaed by the ICC will become international pariahs and will also be ineligible to hold political office because they will be facing criminal charges.
Last year, Ocampo told The Standard that the envelope he received from former United Nations Secretary-General Dr Kofi Annan contained about 20 names although he would only deal with three or four key suspects.
Ocampo argued that Kenya’s case was different from that of the populous Sudan where, despite the ICC issuing an arrest warrant against President Omar El Bashir, he is still free and actually just participated and won a presidential election.
"Unlike Kenya, the problem in Sudan is that Bashir is using the army and state apparatus to commit crimes (in Darfur)," said Ocampo.
On the contrary, Ocampo said Kenya’s case was simple because the Government is not accused of promoting crime but instead trying to stop the vice.
He added: "In each country, we request the territorial state to arrest individuals and that is why we are working with the Sudan to arrest President Bashir but there is a possibility too for the accused persons to appear voluntarily in court," said Ocampo.
During next week’s visit, the Prosecutor plans to listen to both the victims and the accused in his efforts to dig deeper into the bottom of the skirmishes that claimed 1,133 lives and uprooted up to 500,000 from the comfort of their homes.
But even before he boards a Nairobi-bound plane, Ocampo has sent a warning shot but also promised impartiality.
In an interview with Capital FM, Ocampo — who has promised to make Kenya an example to the world on how to stamp out impunity — indicated that he would give a hearing to the suspects.
He would be back in the country in September or October after the warrants of arrest are issued.
He said he is aware that the application of justice is key to a peaceful 2012 election, and he would be meeting leaders to see how the ICC can help foster peaceful co-existence among Kenyans.
"The way to reconcile is establishing the law. Because if someone rapes my daughter, no one can force me to reconcile with him or her," said Ocampo.
The ICC took up Kenya’s case after Parliament failed to establish a national mechanism to try the suspects.
Attempts to establish a special tribunal failed twice, with MPs saying they do not have confidence in a local mechanism.
Said Ocampo: "We are part of the Kenyan justice system and our job is to help end impunity for the most serious crimes, that is what we are doing."
His comment emanated from the fact that Kenya is a signatory to the Rome statute, and hence falls under the ICC jurisdiction.
It is in this vein that the ICC expects Kenya’s support as it executes its mandate