, NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 7 – “It is not vague, it is The Hague.”
Masterminds of post election violence who thought the International Criminal Court (ICC) would delay their trial are now facing a reality check after Chief Prosecutor Moreno Ocampo announced on Saturday that the Pre-Trial Chamber had been constituted in The Hague to establish whether to commence investigations.
“A team of investigators, lawyers, and international cooperation advisers is ready to do this case,” he said.
Mr Ocampo who left the country for South Africa on Saturday morning said the ICC has appointed three judges to establish whether to commence investigations on the key masterminds behind the chaos that saw more than 1,000 people killed.
“Judges Ekaterina Trendafilova, Hans-Peter Kaul and Cuno Tarfusser would handle the Pre-Trial Chamber II proceedings,” a brief statement from The Hague based court said.
The move follows a letter from ICC Chief Prosecutor on Thursday, indicating his intention to submit a request for the authorisation of an investigation into the Kenya case.
Mr Ocampo who briefed journalists in Nairobi before his departure said he understood the urgency of bringing to justice those responsible for the crimes committed and ensure an end to impunity in the country.
But most sensitive for him was to ensure that a recurrence of violence is not witnessed in the next election scheduled for 2012.
He indicated that the perpetrators bearing the biggest responsibility will be exposed by next year to assure Kenyans of peaceful elections.
“Everyone is worried of the next election in Kenya, I understand the importance of speed, and I am working to be sure that during 2010 we will be able to complete the investigations and to define who the accused are, they have to face justice and you can have a peaceful election,” he asserted.
His petition now awaits the ICC judge’s approval.
“The Prosecutor can decide on his own to initiate an investigation if there is a reasonable basis to proceed with an investigation but must first obtain the permission of the judges of the Pre-Trial Chamber before initiating such investigations,” the statement said.
But Mr Ocampo said he was confident that the judges will allow him to launch investigations into the Kenya case.
"I believe we have a very strong case but its true judges could say no," he said.
He said he would rely on the Justice Phillip Waki report and other investigations conducted by other agencies to convince the ICC to approve that he commences the probe.
"I think I have a strong case because the Waki commission is a very good report, it’s full of information and there are other reports; the UN report, human rights groups reports, I think I have a very strong case," he said.
Once he gets authority from the judges, which has to be done within 30 days, Mr Ocampo said he will come back to Kenya next month to carry out the investigations, strongly emphasising on confidentiality and protection of witnesses whom he said they were likely to be about 30.
“I will go to the places where crime occurred, I will meet the victims, I will take statements in a very confidential way, no one will know who the witnesses are, where we are taking them, I will not inform you, no one will know, that has to be cleared,” he emphasised.
He said he expects the investigations to take about six months after commencement.
Following the government’s failure to refer the case to The Hague on Thursday, Mr Ocampo said when he comes back to the country in December he will also seek for audience with the relevant authorities to get assurance that the government will cooperate with the ICC.
Mr Ocampo further said he will be interested to know the progress of the Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commission alongside other items spelt out in the Waki recommendations.
“I will also try to meet with the relevant authorities to be sure that we are working together,” he said.
He said he was likely to open three cases and gave a strong indication that the trial might be based in Arusha where there are “well established systems and facilities.”
Once he feels he has reliable evidence, Mr Ocampo said he will ask the judges at the pre-trial chambers to issue summons to the suspects, ask them to appear or issue arrest warrants.
“That will be the moment when the World will get to know who are in the secret Waki list,” he said.
Mr Ocampo was positive that the police in Kenya will discharge their duty as expected. Contrary to the views of most Kenyans, he said he believed they will be capable to arrest the suspects.
“The police have a duty and they are only ones who can arrest people in Kenya and they have to do it, Kenya is a well organised state, I don’t have any doubts that they can’t arrest people, Kenya is a beautiful country, they can do it and they will do it if the judges tell them so”.
Mr Ocampo said he was encouraged by Kenya’s quest for justice.
He also commended the good working relationship between President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga.
Mr Ocampo said: “This will be an example for the rest of the world but their cooperation with the ICC to end impunity will be a big test for their coalition.”