Judges want ICC hearings held in Kenya

June 3, 2011 9:50 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 3 – The Pre-Trial Chamber II of the International Criminal Court (ICC) is considering holding its September hearings for confirmation of charges against the Ocampo Six in Kenya, and not The Hague.

A statement from the ICC on Friday said the court had asked for opinions from the Prosecutor, the defence and the victims on the desirability of conducting the confirmation of charges hearings in Kenya.

"The Chamber also requested that the parties and participants submit their observations no later than Monday, 13 June 2011," the statement said.

The court will seek the opinions on the desirability of conducting the confirmation of charges hearings in the Republic of Kenya in the cases of The Prosecutor versus William Samoei Ruto, Henry Kiprono Kosgey and Joshua arap Sang and The Prosecutor versus Francis Kirimi Muthaura, Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta and Mohammed Hussein Ali.

"The Chamber stated that in order to properly assess the desirability and feasibility of conducting the confirmation of charges hearings in the Republic of Kenya, it was deemed valuable to receive observations from the parties and participants to the proceedings in both cases."

A confirmation of charges hearing is held to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to establish substantial grounds to believe that each suspect committed each of the crimes charged.

"If the charges are confirmed, the Pre-Trial Chamber commits the person for trial before a Trial Chamber, which will conduct the subsequent phase of the proceedings: the trial."

The six suspects made an initial appearance at the Hague court in April relating to their alleged roles in the 2008 post-election violence.

Confirmation of charges proceedings against Messers Ruto, Kosgey and Sang were set for September 1 while those against Messers Kenyatta, Ali and Muthaura were set for September 21.

At the time of their initial appearance, ICC judge Ekaterina Trendafilova issued stern warnings against the suspects that they may face arrest if they made dangerous speeches that may retrigger the violence of 2008.

A status conference was held on April 18 when the Prosecutor informed the parties the evidence and the amount of documents he wanted to rely on.

This week, the court rejected a case filed by the Kenyan government challenging the admissibility of the ICC cases.

Judges Ekaterina Trendafilova, Hans-Peter Kaul and Cuno Tarfusser rejected Kenya\’s plea that it has put mechanisms in place to try the post election violence perpetrators.

The Kenyan government however said it would appeal against the ruling.

In a statement issued from the Netherlands, Mr Wako said he was surprised that the Pre-Trial Chamber II judges didn\’t give Kenya an opportunity to present oral evidence to the court in support of its case.

"This issue of giving an opportunity to the State Party which has applied for it, an oral hearing is fundamental to the development of international criminal law. The Government of Kenya is therefore reviewing the ruling with a view of appealing against both decisions to the Appeals Chambers of the ICC," Mr Wako said at the time.

"The Government of Kenya is confident that the Appeals Chambers will not only receive up to date information of the progress of investigations the Pre-Trial Chamber declined to receive, but that, by the time of the hearing of the Appeal, yet further reforms will have taken place demonstrating that these cases can be tried in Kenya itself."

The ICC ruling came after Ocampo expressed fears that the Kenya government was not committed to delivering justice to victims of the post election violence and accused President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga of shielding suspects.

Mr Ocampo has dispatched a high-powered team from his officer to meet the two leaders to get their assurances on the government\’s position on the Kenyan case at The Hague.

"My question to the Kenyan government is this: does the government of Kenya want justice for the victims? We need an unequivocal answer, an answer that Kenyans and the world could understand," Mr Ocampo said in a strongly-worded statement.

"Is the government of Kenya protecting witnesses or protecting the suspects from investigation? That is the question," he posed.

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