, NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 4 – The government has defended itself against accusations of derailing the work of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the country and said it was still committed to pursue the masterminds of the 2008 post election violence.
Foreign Affairs Minister Moses Wetangula said on Monday that it was the right of any potential suspect to involve their lawyers when recording statements to protect their fundamental rights, which was acceptable under the Constitution.
The government has been accused reluctance to cooperate because of negative statements from officials and refusal to hand over sensitive documents to ICC investigators. This week, public servants who are likely to give evidence to the court hired lawyers whom they expect to advise them as they give statements.
"Like all criminal processes under that law, Mr Ocampo (Luis Moreno, ICC prosecutor) will not come here and arrest people the way a policeman can walk into any crowd and pick you out. He will still have to go out to the court and seek permission and the court will be satisfied that there is evidence to indict people. The process is still long but we are committed," the Minister said.
He said that it would be irresponsible of the government to deny the potential witnesses or suspects the right to involve their lawyers which would be a violation of their constitutional right.
The Minister also said that it was wrong for political leaders to publicly differ on the work of the ICC in the country.
"When politicians start arguing in an erratic manner in public they send mixed signals to both Kenyans and friends of Kenya," Mr Wetangula said.
He said that the government had taken every step to give the ICC legal grounds on which to do its work in Kenya.
"I don\’t understand where the noises are coming from. We have committed ourselves to pursue and bring to book those who are guilty of impunity and the commitment has not changed," the Minister reaffirmed.
He was speaking during celebrations to mark the 20th anniversary of German unification day in Nairobi which commemorates the day East and West Germany came together as one.
German Ambassador Margit Hellwig-Boette appealed to the government not to backtrack on its commitment to the ICC process.
"I am very happy about the explanation the Foreign Minister just gave, that the Kenyan government is committed to cooperation with the ICC. This is the sign we all needed because from my experience in this country and the travels I have made, I understand that the victims of post election violence want something to be done about impunity," she said.
She also said that the division of the country into 47 counties under the new Constitution would contribute to national cohesion.
"If people in the counties can easily access resources, it will be easy to ensure equal opportunities," she said.
"After 20 years, I would still say we are not yet totally there but we have done a lot," the ambassador said.