The first three of six Kenyan suspects accused of bearing responsibility for the Post-Election Violence (PEV) that rocked Kenya in late 2007 to early 2008 made their initial appearance before Pre-Trial Chamber judges of the International Criminal Court (ICC) today in The Hague.
The three suspects, Hon. William Samoei Ruto, Hon. Henry Kosgey, both members of the Kenyan Parliament, and radio journalist Joshua Arap Sang are all members of the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM), which is led in the Kenyan coalition government by Prime Minister Raila Odinga.
Hon. Ruto and Kosgey are charged as indirect co-perpetrators (committing crimes through other persons) while Mr. Sang is charged with contributing to the crimes against humanity of murder, forcible transfer and persecution.
Represented by different teams of lawyers, the three suspects confirmed their personal details to the Court, including a statement of their respective professions, their dates and places of birth.
The presiding Judge of the Pre-Trial Chamber, Judge Ekaterina Trendafilova used the occasion to warn the suspects about reports that some of them have been making “dangerous statements” which had the tendency to incite more violence in Kenya.
“Such type of action could be perceived as a source of inducement…namely to continue to commit crimes within the jurisdiction of the Court…” the Presiding Judge said.
She added that “this might cause the Chambers to replace the summons with arrest warrants.”
Stating the purpose of the initial appearance, the Presiding Judge noted that “this is not a trial, nor is it a confirmation hearing. No evidence will be collected, nor will the issue of guilt or innocence be addressed.”
She explained that the purpose of the initial appearance was for the suspects to be fully informed of their rights and of the charges against them, and for the Court to set a date for a confirmation hearing.
All three suspects confirmed that they have been informed of the crimes with which they have been charged.
As he confirmed that he had been informed of the crimes with which he has been charged, Hon. Ruto who has already declared that he intends to run for President of Kenya in 2012 used his moment to make an additional statement.
“The allegations that have been made here sound to me like they can only be possible in a movie,” Hon. Ruto said.
“For an innocent person like me to be dragged all the way here is a matter that baffles me,” Hon. Ruto added.
Hon. Kosgey while stating that he had been sufficiently informed of the charges against him added that “the details of these alleged crimes have not been provided.”
The Presiding Judge responded that “these will be provided in the future.”
The Presiding Judge announced that the confirmation hearing will commence on September 1, 2011. During the confirmation hearing, the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) will seek to present evidence through witness testimonies or witness statements to show that the suspects bear responsibility for the crimes with which they are charged. Based on the OTP’s evidence, the judges will determine whether or not to confirm the charges against the suspects. If the said charges are confirmed, the matter will move to a Trial Chamber of three different judges.
The Court also set a date of April 18, 2011 for a Status Conference where the OTP will state an estimate of the overall amount of evidence, the number of witnesses that will testify, and the number of witness statements to be used at the confirmation hearing.
The next group of three Kenyan suspects, all senior members of the Party of National United, which is led by Kenyan president Mwai Kibaki, will make their initial appearance before three Pre-Trial Chamber judges in The Hague tomorrow.
A total of six people have been charged with responsibility for the crimes committed during the PEV in Kenya from December 30, 2007 to the end of January 2008. As the six suspects, now famously called “The Ocampo Six,” make their initial appearance in The Hague this week, they are accompanied, in a show of solidarity, by a total of 40 members of the Kenyan Parliament.