Taxpayers may foot bill for ICC suspects

January 13, 2011 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 13 – The government has confirmed it may foot the bill for the defence of five senior government officials named by the International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo as principal planners of the post election violence.

Government Spokesman Dr Alfred Mutua however dismissed as propaganda media reports that Sh4.7 billion would be spent in defending the officials, but validated claims that the issue of funding their defence was under consideration.

Dr Mutua said any action the government took would be in line with the Constitution and a code governing civil servants.

"The issue of covering the legal fees of the mentioned officials is still under review and any decision made will be done in accordance with the Constitution and the code of conduct for Civil Servants," Dr Mutua said in a statement that is likely to spark a major controversy amongst civil society lobby groups.

A section of Kenyans interviewed by Capital News on Thursday morning said they were opposed to any attempt by the government to spend public funds to defend government officials accused of planning or financing crimes against humanity.

"That is misuse of public funds… our money cannot be spent to bail out people accused of committing atrocities," one Kenyan said.

Another interviewee said: "By indicating that public funds will be spent to defend government officials in court, the government is trying to justify the crimes the officials are accused of having committed."

In December last year, Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo presented to the ICC pre-trial chamber names of five senior government officials and a radio presenter whom he wants held responsible for planning and financing the 2007/08 post election violence which claimed the lives of some 1,300 people and displacement of 650,000 others.

Government officials named in the Ocampo list include the Head of the Civil Service and Secretary to the Cabinet Francis Muthaura, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta and Post Master General Mohammed Hussein Ali who served as Police Commissioner at the time of the violence.

Others are suspended Higher Education Minister William Ruto of Eldoret North and Tinderet Member of Parliament Henry Kosgey who stepped aside last week as Industrialization Minister to face abuse of office charges filed in court by the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission.

A statement from the Government Spokesman\’s office stated that only civil servants are likely to benefit from the state funding of their legal fees, meaning Joshua arap Sang, the Kass FM radio presenter who is the only non-government official named by Mr Ocampo will have to meet his legal fees.

The fate of the six ICC suspects lies with the pre-trial chamber judges who are examining evidence presented to them by Mr Ocampo to establish if they have a case to answer.

In his December 15, 2010 application, Mr Ocampo asked the Pre-trial Chamber judges to issue summonses for the six individuals to appear.

On Wednesday, Mr Muthaura issued a statement denying media reports that he had established a think-tank comprising high-ranking government officials at the Office of the President in spirited efforts to have Kenya pull out of the ICC process through the African Union.

"There is no informal secretariat or "think tank" established at the Office of the President to subvert the ICC," his statement said.

"I therefore cannot be and I am not closely associated with any such non-existent team.

Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka has however been confirmed to be leading delegations which have been sent to several African states to lobby for the ICC withdrawal (see separate story).

Mr Musyoka has been in South Africa and arrived in Uganda on Thursday for the same mission.

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