Justice looms for 'Ocampo Four'

Prosecution and defence lawyers at the International Criminal Court have agreed on a March 2013 trial date for two of the four Kenyans accused of masterminding post-election violence in 2007.


    Prosecution and defence lawyers have agreed on a March 2013 trial date for two of the Ocampo Four.

    While the status hearing at the International Criminal Court has begun in the Netherlands, proceedings have been overshadowed by the death of Kenyan Security Minister George Saitoti.

    Saitoti was, afterall, one of the most respected politicians in the country and Kenya will be in mourning in the days to come.

    Meanwhile, back at The Hague, only one of the so-called Ocampo Four - broadcaster Joshua Arap Sang (has) made it to court. With the accuseds' presence not necessarily a requirement at this point, lawyers will be left presenting their arguments in court.

    That is not to say this isn't a big story in Kenya. One keen observer told me this morning: “This is getting serious now.”

    And it isn't difficult to understand why.

    Facing justice

    Some Kenyans did not believe this day would come - a day when such privileged, powerful men would have to face up to international justice.

    But let us not forget how long it has taken to get to this point.

    It is, afterall, five years since violence pitted Kenyan against Kenyan, resulting in the deaths of more than 1,000 people, and the displacement of hundreds of thousands more.

    Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the chief prosecutor at the ICC, launched an investigation in November 2009, and around a year later the ICC named the suspects.

    But it was only in January 2012 that the court confirmed the charges against the four accused. What we did learn on Monday though, is that the prosecution and defence are in agreement about one thing: the date of the proceedings.

    Both sides say they will be ready for trial by March 2013, and although the judge has to give the final nod, he is most likely to agree.


    This is significant development because two of the accused, William Ruto, a former minister and current member of parliament, and Uhuru Kenyatta, the current deputy prime minister, are both running for office in the election which is also due to take place in March next year.

    It must seem surprising to outside observers that war crimes suspects would still be able to run in a presidential election. But of course, both men insist they are innocent.

    Kenyatta comes from Kenyan political royalty - his father, Jomo Kenyatta, is considered the founding father of Kenya, and is still an extremely popular figure here.

    If the trial is in March 2013, then the two men will - in theory - still be able to run in the election.

    But problems arise if the election goes to a second round.

    If Kenyatta or Ruto are in that runoff, they will both be ineligible to campaign, as the ICC will insist they attend their own trials.

    In recent days, Kenyan politicians have been talking about peace and unity. Kenyans do not want a repeat of what happened five years ago. For the victims of the violence, justice is the only way to move on from those events.



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