Kenya Cabinet meets over ICC fears

July 14, 2009 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 14 – Kenya’s  Cabinet was due to hold a special sitting on Tuesday to ratify a revised Special Tribunal  Bill to try suspected masterminds of  last year’s post election violence.

According to a source at the Kenya Law Reform Commission , the new draft has abolished an amnesty clause that was in the previous Bill. The President will also  not have powers of pardon, meaning convicts must face the punishment delivered by the Special Tribunal.

“The Attorney General has also been stripped of his  ‘nolle prosequi’  powers meaning he will not be able to terminate any of the cases,” the source who did not wish to be named said.

Also in the new draft, Ministers and other public officers named as having taken part in either planning  or executing the violence will be required to resign immediately they are charged in court and will not return to office  unless  they are  cleared of the charges.

“The tribunal will also have its own financial autonomy,”  said  the source.

It appears that an earlier proposal to have a special division of the High Court to try the suspects has now been abandoned.

The  new Bill is a product of concerted efforts between Justice Minister Mutula Kilonzo, his Lands counterpart James Orengo and Attorney General Amos Wako assisted by the Kenya Law Reform Commission.

Tuesday’s  Cabinet meeting was coming  six days after Chief Mediator Kofi Annan handed over the list of the suspects to the  International Criminal Court (ICC)  causing panic and anxiety within government. The  ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo is expected to open the sealed envelope together with supporting evidence later this week as the court examines whether the offences meet the threshold of an international process (which covers genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity). 

The Justice Minister has however allayed fears that the ICC will immediately start prosecution.

Mr Kilonzo will present the amended Bill hoping to secure the support of the Cabinet before he heads to Parliament for approval. He however faces an uphill task as some of his colleagues have publicly rejected a local process. Agriculture Minister William Ruto backed by legislators from the  North Rift have made it clear that they will shoot down the tribunal bill.

While a section of members of Parliament rejected the earlier bill in February because of the amnesty clauses  as well as the powers of the President and AG to discontinue the conviction , the North Rift group said the tribunal targets a few people who were protesting against ‘election theft.’

Mr Kilonzo who has been in office for six weeks faces the biggest test of his helm at the Justice and Constitutional Affairs Ministry as he works extra hard to win the two groups now United for different reasons.

“The draft that  I’m bringing will be dramatically different and I will give you all the safeguards possible ; some you have not even thought about,” Mr Kilonzo said on Monday.

At least 1,333 people lost their lives during the violence while over 600,000 were uprooted from their homes. Since signing the peace deal to share power last year the coalition government has been trying to put the crisis behind but the divisions within the executive and parliament have frustrated a efforts to come with a unified way out.


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