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Time up for ICC suspects in public office

NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 9 – Civil society organisations now want public officials wanted by the ICC over the post election violence to resign, after the court issued summons for the Ocampo Six on Tuesday.

The organisations which backed the court\’s decision argued that the Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta, Head of Civil Service Francis Muthaura and Post Master General Mohammed Hussein Ali should vacate office in line with Chapter 6 of the new Constitution.

Change Associates Trust Executive Director, Wambugu Ngunjiri, who read part of the statement on behalf of his colleagues, however pointed out that the summons were not proof of the individuals\’ guilt or involvement in the violence.

"We call on the President and Prime Minister to remove the suspects who hold public positions from office because their continued incumbency and ability to influence public decision may subvert the course of justice and represents a serious conflict of interest," he said.

The NGOs also asked the government to stop the shuttle diplomacy aimed at circumventing the ICC process saying it was a waste of public funds and that it had been overtaken by events. 
Mr Ngunjiri argued that Kenya willingly ratified the Rome Statute and should therefore cooperate with its work.

"We encourage the suspects to present themselves to The Hague as they have promised to do and we want the government to stop misusing public resources in pursuing the partisan case before the UN Security Council as this has no hope of success," he said.

Last month, Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka led several Cabinet Ministers on a mission to lobby for the support of African countries in deferring the ICC process. This mission, which was successful, cost the Kenyan tax payer Sh31 million.

On March 4 another government delegation, again led by Mr Musyoka, was dispatched to start a fresh bid to delay the Kenya ICC case in a campaign targeting the United Nations Security Council.

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A legal expert who did not wish to be named however said the UN Security Council was still at liberty to consider Kenya’s request for a deferral and that the council was not time-barred since it could intervene at whatever stage.

Meanwhile the Kenya Human Rights Commission argued that the attempts to defer the ICC process undermined the principle of accountability. Executive Director Muthoni Wanyeki said the government should instead focus on facilitating justice for all the victims of the post poll chaos.

She noted that Internally Displaced Persons were yet to be resettled four years since the violence broke out.

"Obviously the impact of addressing these needs would be justice for the survivors and victims of the post election violence who have been completely locked out of the debate on the ICC process," she said.

Haki Focus Executive Director Harun Ndubi, who serves as a human rights lawyer, explained that although one of the three judges involved in the ruling opposed it, his opposition bore little impact to the overall process.

The ruling was endorsed by Judges Cuno Tarfusser and Judge Ekaterina Trendafilova but Judge Hans-Peter Kaul declined to endorse it.  His reasons for dissenting will be issued in due course.

"It does not change whatsoever the position of the Court. It only shows that the Court was not unanimous in how it considered the evidence. It gives a hint that there is going to be a bruising legal battle ahead. The Prosecutor will have to work harder in proving his case," he said.

The NGOs, which spoke after a round table with Prime Minister Raila Odinga, also asked legislators to fast track the implementation of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission Bill.  The Executive Director Institute for Education and Democracy, Peter Aling\’o said Kenya was running out of time.

"We have to certain things within the next 100 days. We need an electoral body created together the law that will enable that body to be grounded. They have to be worked on immediately so that by latest May we have them in place. Going ahead into 2012 is gigantic," he observed.

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