NAIROBI, Kenya — Six Kenyans accused of crimes against humanity by the chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Court have been summoned to appear in the court in The Hague next month, signaling a long anticipated end to the impunity that Kenyan political elites have enjoyed.
The men — dubbed the Ocampo Six by local media after the court’s prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo — include the deputy prime minister, the head of the civil service, two recent former cabinet ministers and a former police chief.
The suspects are drawn from both sides of a fractious coalition that has ruled Kenya since violence tore through the country after a disputed election in 2007.
Weeks of politically motivated tribal fighting followed the rushed announcement of election results in late 2007 in which President Mwai Kibaki was victorious over his rival Raila Odinga, who now serves as prime minister.
More than 1,100 people died and hundreds of thousands were forced from their homes, roadblocks were erected and political militia sorted and slaughtered people by ethnicity. Homes and churches were burned down, trigger-happy police fired into crowds, chaos reigned.
As part of the negotiations that brought an uneasy peace, Kenya agreed to try those responsible for the violence before a locally convened tribunal but after months of stalling the case was referred to the International Criminal Court.
In December 2010 Ocampo announced the names of six men he wanted to prosecute in two separate cases, one dealing with initial attacks by Kalenjin on Kikuyu and another with retaliatory attacks by Kikuyu on Kalenjin and Luo communities. Late on Tuesday the ICC judges decided that the men all had cases to answer and issued summons for an initial appearance likely to lead to the start of trials.
The announcement will deal a blow to attempts by the Kenyan government to have the trials postponed. For months Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka has lobbied the African Union and the U.N. Security Council for a deferral and on Wednesday the justice and security ministers said they would challenge the admissibility of the Kenya case at The Hague although many ordinary Kenyans support the court’s involvement.
Most high profile among the suspects is Uhuru Kenyatta, finance minister and deputy prime minister as well as a son of Kenya’s founding father and a possible successor to Kibaki.
The judges found that there was sufficient evidence to charge Kenyatta and Cabinet Secretary Francis Muthaura, a close Kibaki ally, of being “criminally responsible as indirect co-perpetrators” of murder, forcible transfer of a population, rape, other inhumane acts and persecution.
Kenyatta is accused of ordering revenge attacks launched by the Mungiki, a Kikuyu criminal gang, and Muthaura of chairing meetings between Mungiki and members of the president’s party at which attacks were planned and financed.
Former police chief Hussein Ali is to be charged with being “criminally responsible as having contributed to crimes committed by a group of persons” for ordering his officers not to intervene to prevent ethnic attacks by Kikuyus on Luos and others.
The second case brought by Ocampo is against former cabinet minister William Ruto who has been suspended from his post to answer corruption charges, and Henry Kosgey, another suspended minister who is set to face a separate fraud case.
The judges ruled that they should answer charges of being “criminally responsible as indirect co-perpetrators” of murder, forcible transfer of a population and persecution. The judges threw out a charge of torture.
Ruto and Kosgey are accused of being leader and treasurer respectively of the Kalenjin youth gangs that, within hours of the announcement of Kibaki’s victory, began attacking his Kikuyu ethnic group in the Rift Valley.
Alongside them radio presenter Joseph Arap Sang is accused of being “criminally responsible as having contributed to crimes committed by a group of persons” by disseminating hate speech and stoking the violence.
The summons by the ICC judges were immediately welcomed by human rights activists.
“The ICC’s decision to issue summonses to six suspects is a step toward justice for the victims of Kenya’s horrific post-election violence in 2007-2008,” said Elizabeth Evenson, senior international justice counsel at New York-based Human Rights Watch.
“We look forward to a judicial process without political interference and where the rights of the accused are fully respected,” she said.
In Nairobi, too, there was support for the ICC. Ben Kariuki, a taxi driver, said the summons were a good thing. “They should go to The Hague,” he said glancing at the front page of one of Kenya’s national dailies ‘Ocampo Six ordered to appear at Hague.’ “That way we can avoid the chaos that hit us last time.”
All six suspects say they are innocent and by Wednesday afternoon all but Muthaura and Ruto had declared their intention to honor the court summons and present themselves at the ICC in April.