Ex-prosecutor: Int'l court cases changed Kenya

AP News
Posted: Mar 14, 2013 11:39 AM
Ex-prosecutor: Int'l court cases changed Kenya

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — The former International Criminal Court chief prosecutor said Thursday that cases he launched prosecuting violence after Kenya's 2007 elections were game-changers that helped prevent a repeat of the deadly rampages following this month's vote.

In his first interview about Kenya since leaving office last year, Luis Moreno-Ocampo said deterring postelection bloodletting was one of his goals when he indicted six prominent Kenyans for alleged involvement in the 2007 violence, which killed more than 1,000 people.

This month's vote featured "the same players, but playing a different game," he told The Associated Press in a telephone interview from New York.

He said Kenya's adoption of key police and judicial reforms recommended by an African Union panel led by former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan was also a key ingredient in the peaceful elections this month. Kenya passed a new constitution in the wake of the 2007-2008 violence.

Moreno-Ocampo's comments come as one of the men he indicted, Uhuru Kenyatta, is awaiting confirmation of his election victory. Prime Minister Raila Odinga is challenging the result, saying there was massive rigging. Odinga's camp said Tuesday the prime minister was cheated out of 1.8 million votes, a margin that would give him an outright win.

Despite the challenge, Kenya has remained peaceful, with all sides urging calm.

President-elect Kenyatta's running mate, former Education Minister William Ruto, also is facing trial at the Hague-based International Criminal Court. Both men insist they are innocent and have been cooperating with the court.

Moreno-Ocampo's successor, Fatou Bensouda, on Monday told judges she was dropping all charges against the former head of Kenya's civil service, Francis Muthaura, who was charged alongside Kenyatta with crimes against humanity including murder, rape and deportation.

Bensouda cited witness interference, and a lack of cooperation from Kenyan authorities as reasons for dropping the charges. In a court filing Wednesday, she argued that the trial of Kenyatta, scheduled to start in July, could still proceed.

Charges have now been dropped against three of the six suspects originally indicted.

Moreno-Ocampo revealed he once unsuccessfully petitioned judges at the court to issue arrest warrants for people suspected of intimidating the families of witnesses in the Kenyan cases.

"When we requested the judges to act, to arrest some individuals, they refused," he said. He refused to give more detail of the confidential request or identify those he wanted arrested.

"To prove the threats to the families of our witnesses in Kenya, the judges requested a high level of evidence that we cannot fulfill because our witnesses were in Kenya," he said. "We could not disclose the names (of the witnesses) because they were in Kenya and then there would be problems for them."

Protecting witnesses and building cases in distant countries where conflicts are sometimes still raging is one of the key challenges for the court, which has no police force of its own.

Moreno-Ocampo deflected criticism by defense lawyers that prosecutors knew about suspect testimony from some witnesses, but did not tell the defense before a key pretrial assessment of evidence in 2011.

"That is why the trial is so important," he said. "The trial is the moment of truth."

Kenyatta's lawyer, Steven Kay, doesn't want to wait that long — he has asked judges to send the case back to the pretrial stage so judges can again weigh up whether the evidence is strong enough to merit a full trial.

In her written filing to judges, Bensouda argued she has enough evidence against the president-elect.

"The withdrawal of the charges against Mr. Muthaura does not impact upon the factual case the prosecution will present against Mr. Kenyatta at trial," Bensouda wrote. "That case remains unaltered."