HRW blames govt for Tribunal dissent

February 12, 2009 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 12 – An international human rights advocacy body has blamed the government for the current stalemate that has seen the Parliament refuse to pass a Bill that will set up a Special Tribunal for Kenya.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) Consultant in the Africa Division, Ben Rawlence told Capital News on Thursday that failure by the government to consult widely had given way to dissent from MPs and the civil society, towards the formation of the special court.

“Government has made no efforts to exercise leadership.  Apart from this week, they should have made stronger effort much earlier to persuade the public on why this is important,” he said.

“I don’t understand why the government or the MPs are dragging their feet. The only reason I can think is actually because they don’t want to see people brought to justice,” Mr Rawlence charged.

The HRW consultant also said that President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga must be prepared to make hard decisions and encourage their MPs to pass the constitutional amendment that seeks to create a tribunal that will try post election violence suspects.

He said the leaders should take responsibility for Kenya’s problems instead of waiting on the international community to play its role.

“The Kenyan Parliament can decide whether it wants to take responsibility for Kenya’s problems and see justice done in Kenya or it can sit on its hands and see if the international community takes seriously the request by Mr Annan and bring these people to Justice,” Mr Rawlence said.

“If it is a serious government and a serious Parliament then it should take his (Justice Philip Waki) recommendations and implement them fully.”

Mr Rawlence stated that it was now upon the two sides to come up with a credible tribunal that will see suspects tried according to Waki Commission Report.

“Some of the MPs have genuine concerns, but it doesn’t take too long to amend the Bill and move on. So the government should bend and amend it quickly, the MPs should bend and pass it because if it is set up in the way that is recommended I don’t see the problem,” he told Capital News.

The human rights advocate argued that the Waki report had recommended the creation of a mixed panel of judges because Kenyans had lost confidence in the local institutions.

The international advocacy body said Kenya stood to lose credibility with its international partners if it did not create the tribunal.

“Kenya will be shamed and embarrassed in the eyes of the world, because it has failed to get this Bill through Parliament and show proper leadership. There will be very serious consequences for Kenya’s reputations and relationships with the donor countries and in the UN. It will be a major blow to Kenya’s standings that people know that there are people who have committed grave crimes against humanity in the Cabinet or in the Parliament, who they can’t deal with.”

“This would be a tragedy for Kenya because the consequences are not just of these few names going to The Hague, they are more serious for all of Kenya,” he said.

Mr Rawlence cautioned Kenyans against placing all their hopes on the International Criminal Court.

“It is wrong for the Kenyans to believe that the ICC is the answer to all its prayers, it isn’t. The best choice is this local tribunal in Kenyan with international judges and of course the Kenyan government might try to interfere but if there is a lot of attention and civil societies involved, it will be very hard for them to undermine it completely,” he said.


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