THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — International Criminal Court prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo told judges at a crucial pretrial hearing Thursday that three prominent Kenyans carefully plotted a campaign of murder, deportation and persecution in the country's Rift Valley region to gain political power.
The allegation came on the opening day of a hearing in the court's case against lawmakers William Ruto, Henry Kiprono Kosgey and radio broadcaster Joshua Arap Sang, who are accused of crimes against humanity during deadly violence that erupted after Kenya's 2007 presidential elections.
Kenya's government has repeatedly argued that the case, and another linked indictment of three other Kenyan suspects, should be handled by Kenyan courts. However, International Criminal Court appeals judges this week rejected that argument.
Moreno-Ocampo justified his decision to prosecute the case by telling judges, the "massive crimes ... are not just a Kenyan problem. These are some of the most serious crimes of concern to the international community as a whole and for that reason the ICC intervened."
Prosecutors and defense attorneys will spend days presenting a summary of their evidence to judges who will then decide whether the case should proceed to trial. A decision is expected later this year.
The three suspects insist they are innocent and have challenged the court's jurisdiction.
Ruto's lawyer David Hooper accused Moreno-Ocampo of a "slanted and wrong interpretation of events" and said the prosecutor had failed to investigate evidence that could clear the suspects or mitigate their guilt.
Hooper said that evidence against Ruto is based on "a flawed investigation and over-reliance on a handful of anonymous witnesses."
Sang's lawyer Joseph Kigan-Katwa echoed Hooper's concerns, saying Moreno-Ocampo "ran away from the opportunity to know the truth."
Moreno-Ocampo is obligated by the court's founding statute to investigate both incriminating evidence and evidence that could clear a defendant.
But the prosecutor said his evidence would show Ruto and Kosgey plotted well ahead of the December 2007 presidential elections to drive supporters of their political opponents out of the Rift Valley province with a carefully coordinated campaign of killings and persecution. They used Sang to broadcast propaganda, Moreno-Ocampo alleged.
The three were supporters of opposition candidate Raila Odinga and targeted backers of Mwai Kabaki, who was elected president in the vote that Odinga supporters said was rigged.
Documents circulated Thursday by prosecutors put the reported death toll of post-election violence throughout Kenya at 1,133 and said 3,561 people were injured. A total of 663,921 people were listed as "internally displaced."
Postelection clashes occurred between tribes that supported Kibaki, a Kikuyu, and those that supported Odinga, a Luo. Fighting stopped after former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan mediated an agreement that made Odinga prime minister.
Three other prominent Kenyans, supporters of Kibaki, face a similar hearing later this month for their alleged roles in the violence.
Sureta Chana, a lawyer representing 327 victims of the violence, said her clients' "lives, families, hopes and aspirations ... have been turned upside down" by the violence. Many are afraid to return home because of a "continuing climate of menace" in the region.
Mike Corder can be followed at http://www.twitter.com/mikecorder
- International Criminal Court
- William Ruto
- Henry Kiprono Kosgey