Deputy Prime Minister for the Coalition Government of Kenya, Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta, and two other Kenyan government officials made their initial appearances today before International Criminal Court (ICC) judges in The Hague after being charged by the ICC Prosecutor as allegedly bearing responsibility for crimes against humanity committed during the country’s post-election violence in late 2007 to early 2008.
Mr. Kenyatta, Francis Karimi Muthaura, who serves as Head of Public Service and Secretary to the Cabinet of Kenya, and Mohamed Hussein Ali, Chief Executive of the Postal Corporation of Kenya, are all members of the Party of National Unity (PNU) led by Kenyan president Mwai Kibaki.
All three suspects face charges of crimes against humanity for murder, forcible transfer, rape, persecution, and other inhumane acts, committed from January 24 to 31, 2008 in several locations in Kenya. While Mr. Kenyatta and Mr. Muthaura are charged as “indirect co-perpetrators” (i.e., committing crimes through other persons), Mr. Ali is charged with contributing to the commission of the same crimes that Kenyatta and Muthaura are alleged to have committed.
At today’s initial appearance hearing, the three suspects were informed of the charges against them and the rights to which they are entitled.
The Presiding Judge of the Pre-Trial Chamber Ekaterina Trendafilova also used the occasion to caution the three suspects that they were expected to conduct themselves well within the requirements of the rules of the Court. She added that the Chamber will “not hesitate to met out sanctions as provided under the rules” of the Court if any of them were to deviate from the required conduct.
The Presiding Judge expressed concerns over reports about statements allegedly made by the suspects, which she said had the potential to reignite violence in Kenya.
“There are movements towards retriggering the violence in Kenya by way of dangerous statements…Such actions will be considered a breach of the conditions in the summons to appear,” Judge Trendafilova said.
She warned that any such breach will be met by a sanction from the Chamber.
Karim Khan, representing Mr. Muthaura, assured the Judges that his client had not been involved in making any inflammatory comments, and he did not want the Kenyan public to perceive him as doing such. He assured that Mr. Muthaura will cooperate with the proceedings to the fullest extent.
All three suspects told the Court that they had been fully informed of the charges against them. The Presiding Judge assured the suspects that until the charges against them are confirmed, their appearance in The Hague does not in anyway translate into the commencement of a trial.
“There will be no trial in case the charges are not confirmed by the Chamber,” the Presiding Judge assured the suspects.
The date for the commencement of the confirmation hearing was set for September 21, 2011. During this hearing, the Prosecution will lead evidence to establish the responsibility of the suspects for the crimes with which they are charged. If the Pre-Trial judges determine that the Prosecution has led evidence to show that there is a case against the suspects, the matter will be sent to trial before a Trial Chamber of three different judges. The decision to send the matter to trial will not translate into guilt of the suspects. At trial, the Prosecution will lead evidence again to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the suspects are guilty of the crimes with which they are charged. The suspects will be released if the Prosecution fails to discharge this burden.
The Judges also today set a date of April 18 for a status conference during which the Prosecution will state an estimate of the overall amount of documents they intend to use during the confirmation hearings, the number of witnesses, and witness statements that will be used, an indication of whether documents disclosed to the defense will be in redacted form, and whether there will be a request for protective measures for prosecution witnesses. The defense will also indicate during the status conference whether they intend to present evidence during the confirmation hearings.
The three suspects were told that they are not obliged to attend the status conference.
Today’s initial appearance follows the appearance yesterday of three other suspects, also accused of bearing responsibility for the crimes committed during the post-election violence in Kenya in late 2007 to early 2008. The three suspects who made their initial appearance yesterday were radio journalist Joshua Arap Sang and members of the Kenyan Parliament William Samoei Ruto and Henry Kosgey.
About 4o senior Kenyan government officials, including the country’s Attorney General were in court both yesterday and today in a show of solidarity for their colleagues. Some members of Kenya’s civil society were also present in court to witness the proceedings.