, THE HAGUE, Nov 26 – The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court said Thursday he had asked judges to allow a formal probe of Kenya\’s 2007-08 post-election violence with a view to trying those responsible.
"I have asked the judges of the International Criminal Court authorisation to investigate the violence that followed the elections in 2007," in which about 1,500 people were killed, Luis Moreno-Ocampo told journalists in The Hague.
"Our policy is to focus our investigation on those who bear the greatest responsibility, those who organised, planned and supported the attacks," he said, adding this would be "a limited number of suspects."
The prosecutor said there had been a "widespread and systematic attack against the Kenyan civilian population," in which hundreds of women were raped, thousands injured and about 300,000 internally displaced.
"These constitute crimes against humanity," he said.
"Victims in Kenya were hurt, they were raped, their homes were burnt, their cattle was stolen, they lost all the means to support themselves. We will do justice for them."
Moreno-Ocampo had been conducting a preliminary investigation since February last year of the violence that followed presidential polls held on December 27, 2007 when opposition chief Raila Odinga accused President Mwai Kibaki of voter fraud.
If given the go-ahead, the prosecutor said he hoped to present the judges with a list of suspects "during the course of 2010".
There was no indication of when the court was likely to make its decision.
Moreno-Ocampo said his investigators were "ready to work" if authorised by the court. "Our teams are constituted and ready to deploy. We have already analysed boxes of documents."
He stressed that a list of suspects submitted by a government-appointment commission that probed the violence, "is not binding on me.
"I have the obligation to be impartial, so I will collect the evidence and I will decide who should face justice."
The list is believed to include the names of top government officials.
Nairobi has yet to act on the recommendation of its own year-old inquiry that a special tribunal be set up to probe the violence.
Earlier this month, Foreign Affairs Minister Moses Wetangula said that Nairobi will help the ICC to investigate, but that it was committed to a "local solution."
The ICC, the world\’s only permanent independent tribunal to try war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, began work in The Hague in 2002.
It can only try cases when countries are either unwilling or unable to do so.
"Today, there is no national investigation and prosecution against those most responsible for the crimes against humanity committed in Kenya. That is why we believe our cases will be admitted," said the prosecutor.
He sought to assure Nairobi that this was not "a foreign court and a foreign prosecutor stepping into Kenyan affairs," but rather "the leaders of Kenya working with the prosecutor they elected."
The ICC was not targeting Africa, the prosecutor added, but "we will not ignore the victims, wherever they are." All four cases currently before the court involve African conflicts.
This is the first time that the prosecutor has sought to open an investigation on his own initiative — one of three ways in which a case can come before the ICC.
He needs the judges\’ permission to do so.
Other cases before the court had either been referred by countries that have signed up to the court\’s founding Rome Statute or by the United Nations Security Council, as in the case of the conflict in Darfur, Sudan.
The ICC has already assigned three judges to consider the prosecutor\’s request on Kenya.