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No instant Ocampo justice, Kenyans cautioned

NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 2 – Despite the much anticipated arrival of International Criminal Court Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo on Thursday, the government now says arrests for key suspects of the post-election violence could take years.

Justice and Constitutional Affairs Permanent Secretary Amina Mohammed on Monday cautioned Kenyans against expecting immediate prosecutions. She said with the lengthy processes of jurispudence at The Hague, arrests of key suspects could take up to three years.

“Mr Ocampo has been carrying out preliminary examination of the crisis using the information he has gathered. I think he will be coming to give us his findings and seek a way forward,” she said.

“I don’t even think he will be seeking an immediate response from the government yet.”

The prosecutor is scheduled to hold talks with both President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga when he jets in.

“I expect that he will be pressuring them on a local solution to the crisis,” Ms Mohammed said.

Mr Ocampo is holding onto a list of suspects handed over to him by chief mediator Kofi Annan and supporting evidence collected by the Commission of Inquiry into the Post Election Violence (CIPEV) that was headed by Judge Phillip Waki.

Whereas Justice Waki had proposed the formation of a local tribunal, attempts to set it up have been rejected twice by both the Cabinet and Parliament. In July, the Cabinet resolved to co-operate with the ICC besides strengthening local justice system through far reaching reforms. A private member’s Bill to set up the tribunal by Central Imenti MP Gitobu Imanyara is however expected in Parliament once it reopens next week.

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Since the information filtered that the prosecutor would be in Nairobi, speculation has been rife that arrests of suspected perpetrators could take place at any time, a notion the PS sought to dispel.

She said in the history of the court, it has taken between one to three years for trials to start.

“There is a process to these issues. First the prosecutor has to establish whether the Kenyan crisis falls under the jurisdiction of the ICC. Secondly he will have to convince the pre-trial chamber and have convincing evidence that those mentioned have a case to answer before issuing any warrants,” she said.

The PS said to pre-empt a similar election related crisis in 2012, Kenyans should support government’s efforts to reform key institutions.

“You cannot afford to address these really longstanding problems in an ad hoc manner by putting in place ad hoc courts. You must have permanent institutions that people have confidence in,” she urged.

“Every time something happens you cannot have ad hoc courts.”

Sudanese president Omar-el-Bashir became the first sitting Head of State to be indicted by the International Criminal Court at The Hague when it issued a warrant for his arrest in March this year.

He however remains free after strategically avoiding countries that are signatories to the ICC statute.

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