A pre-trial chamber of the International Criminal Court (ICC) has said that four prominent Kenyan suspects should be charged with crimes against humanity and face trial, supporting charges against two potential presidential candidates, the country’s top civil servant, and a radio journalist over their alleged role in post-election violence in 2007 and 2008. The court’s Pre-Trial Chamber II announced a summary of its decision in an empty courtroom to enable live streaming of its ruling to satisfy the public thirst for information on the Kenya cases. The Kenyan media over the past week has written numerous speculative pieces on when a decision would likely be issued and how it would impact the country’s politics.
All television channels broadcast Presiding Judge Ekaterina Trendafilova reading the summary in the courtroom in The Hague, flanked by her fellow judges. The channels had human rights activists and lawyers in studio hours ahead of the decision to analyse both pre-ruling and post-ruling scenarios. Some television stations also had their star journalists reporting live, interviewing residents of towns such as Eldoret, which was one of the epicentres of the violence that shook Kenya after the December 2007 presidential poll.
Kenya’s President Mwai Kibaki said after the decision was issued that he has directed Attorney General Githu Muigai to form a legal team to study the ruling and advice the government on the next steps to take.
Pre-Trial Chamber II said the ICC prosecutor presented substantial grounds to convince two out of three of the judges to confirm the charges against Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta; Head of Public Service Francis Kirimi Muthaura; former Cabinet Minister William Samoei Ruto; and radio journalist Joshua arap Sang.
Presiding Judge Ekaterina Trendafilova said the judges were not convinced the prosecutor had reached the threshold for charges to be confirmed against former Cabinet Minister Henry Kiprono Kosgey and former police chief Mohammed Hussein Ali. Judge Trendafilova said Kosgey and Ali are free, but the prosecutor can choose to present additional evidence against them in order to persuade the court to confirm charges against them.
Judge Trendafilova also stated that the four accused are still at liberty, but the restrictions that the court imposed on them during the pre-trial process continue to apply.
“It is our utmost desire that the decision issued by this chamber today bring peace to the Republic of Kenya,” Trendafilova said.
In his address to Kenyans, President Kibaki said that through the provisions of Kenya’s new constitution, the country’s judiciary is undergoing radical transformation, the police are facing fundamental reform, and the country has an independent prosecutor.
“It is now the collective responsibility of all those institutions to ensure justice for all, at all times. In the meantime I appeal to everyone to remain calm and peaceful,” Kibaki continued.
He did not say anything about earlier calls on Kenyatta and Muthaura to resign from their public offices if the charges are confirmed against them. In December 2010, Kibaki said such calls were premature because the charges against them had not been confirmed. This was on the day ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo first announced that he was seeking summons for the two.
“Finally, fellow Kenyans, it is my personal commitment to bequeath present and future generations a secure, united, prosperous, and peaceful country,” Kibaki said. The full statement is available here.
Earlier, Ruto and Sang jointly denounced the Pre-Trial Chamber II’s decision at a news conference attended by supporters of the United Republic Party, the vehicle that Ruto is likely to use to run for president. Among the supporters were Cabinet Ministers Chirau Ali Mwakwere and Samuel Poghishio.
“Let me state, and categorically so, that these allegations against me have been, are and will forever be strange to me,” Ruto said. He said his legal team will be analyzing the judges’ decision before determining the next steps they will take.
“I am persuaded and I am clear in my mind that it doesn’t matter how long it takes, the truth will prevail…the devil will be put to shame,” Ruto said. He affirmed that he still plans to run for president.
“I take this confirmation as a test of my faith and I trust God,” said Sang.
Trendafilova said that the pre-trial judges have, since the Kenya cases were initiated by Moreno-Ocampo in November 2009, reviewed about 30,000 pages of evidence, handled 4,905 filings, and made 252 decisions before finally determining whether to confirm the charges.
At the trial stage, Ruto and Sang will be facing three counts of crimes against humanity. Separately, Kenyatta and Muthaura will face five counts of crimes against humanity.
Under ICC rules, the four Kenyan accused can challenge the judges’ decision on the court’s jurisdiction over the cases. They can also apply to the pre-trial chamber to allow them to appeal the confirmation decision.