, NAIROBI, Kenya Jan 22 – The government is now urging for calm across the country ahead of Monday’s ICC ruling, saying either party has options to appeal regardless of the outcome.
Internal Security Permanent Secretary Francis Kimemia said that even after the ruling, victims and the accused persons still have avenues to seek justice.
“”It is important from the onset to indicate that under the Rome Statute, either party could appeal against the ICC decision,” the PS said in a statement issued late Saturday.
He said an appeal could be lodged on grounds of “fairness, errors of law or facts in the process in accordance with the universal principles of natural justice, even though this would not be an appeal of right.”
In his statement, Kimemia sought to remind both the suspects and victims that “if the pre trial chamber grants the appeal, then a different team of judges would reconsider the ruling.” “Monday will therefore, not be fate accompli for the victims and the accused.”
Kenya is nervously awaiting a ruling of the ICC judges Monday to determine whether or not six prominent Kenyans investigated by Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo will stand a full trial for crimes against humanity which include murder, rape, and forcible transfer of persons among others.
The PS is also warning leaders to avoid inciting Kenyans over the ICC matter, particularly the verdict due Monday.
“Anyone irrespective of their status will be held personally responsible for inciting Kenyans before or after the ruling,” Kimemia said.
He said police are under firm instructions to target strategic locations, including drinking dens where conflict easily occurs before it escalates across communities.
ICC judges are due to issue their ruling Monday at 1.30 pm [Kenyan time] on whether or not to commit six prominent Kenyans to a full trial masterminding the post election violence of 2007.
The violence that followed the disputed December 2007 polls was the worst since independence, leaving more than 1,300 dead, according to the ICC Prosecutor.
It also displaced about half a million others, some of who are still living in camps.
ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo has investigated six top Kenyans, three who were aligned with President Mwai Kibaki’s Party of National Unity (PNU) and three who supported the then opposition Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) of Raila Odinga, now the Prime Minister in a coalition government.
The ICC can either confirm charges – fully or partially -against some or all the suspects; ask for additional evidence or drop the charges altogether.
Neela Ghoshal of Human Rights Watch says most of those scenarios carry a risk of sparking violence, depending on the way they are interpreted by political leaders and their followers here in Kenya.
“The big risk might be if the charges are confirmed in one case and not in the other, against suspects from only one political or ethnic group,” she said, noting that such a scenario could cause one community or one political group to feel they were being unfairly targeted.
“Our feeling is that it is incumbent on political leaders to send the opposite message,” added Ghoshal.
“If no charges are confirmed people could see it as a sign there is impunity in Kenya. If all are confirmed there could be a feeling it is all Raila Odinga’s fault and his supporters could be targeted.”
Two of the most prominent suspects, William Ruto and Uhuru Kenyatta have accused Odinga of exploiting the ICC probe to his advantage ahead of a fresh election due by March 2013.
Ruto, a former Agriculture and Higher Education Minister, and Uhuru Kenyatta, the current Finance Minister and the son of Kenya’s founding president, are seen as Odinga’s main rivals in the presidential race.
Under Kenyan law Kenyatta, 50, and Ruto, 45, would only be debarred from running once they are convicted of the crimes with which they have been charged and once they have exhausted all avenues of appeal. Some civil societies however, interpret it differently and have now vowed to block them from contesting any elective office if indicted.
“People are starting to think that the charges may be confirmed but not in entirety against every one of them,” Mwalimu Mati, a lawyer and the founder of anti-graft watchdog Mars Group said.
Charged alongside Ruto, are former Industrialisation Minister Henry Kosgey, 64, and radio executive Joseph arap Sang, 36. They face charges of crimes against humanity, including murder, forcible transfer and persecution.
Kibaki’s right hand man Francis Muthaura, 65, the Head of the Civil Service and Mohammed Hussein Ali, the former police chief also face charges.
ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo has said the six were “most responsible” for the violence but Monday’s verdict by the judges will prove this.