Kenya lawyer backs president at Hague trial

AP News
Posted: Feb 13, 2014 12:05 PM

AMSTERDAM (AP) — Kenya's government has told the international court hearing President Uhuru Kenyatta's crimes against humanity case that it cannot turn over information about his finances without a court order.

In a special guest appearance at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands on Thursday, Kenya's attorney general, Githu Muigai, said it would violate Kenya's Constitution to release the information demanded by prosecutors as crucial to their case.

Judges are weighing whether to allow Kenyatta's case to go to trial after Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda acknowledged she lacks evidence to convict him. She accuses Kenya's government — under Kenyatta —of obstruction.

The situation underlines some of the limitations of the international court, which has no police force and must rely on help from governments that may only wish to cooperate when it suits their political purposes. The court's mission is to prosecute perpetrators of atrocities when a country is unwilling or unable to prosecute them itself.

Kenyatta has pleaded innocent to charges including murder, forcible population transfer and persecution, for his alleged role in organizing violence that left more than 1,000 people dead after Kenya's 2007 elections.

He was indicted in 2011 but went on to become the president of Kenya last year. Popular resistance to the court's authority may actually have helped his campaign.

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Prosecutor Benjamin Gumpert said Thursday that Kenya is obliged under international treaties to cooperate with the prosecution's requests for information — its main investigative power. "If the prosecution can't investigate by asking for assistance, what can it do?" he said.

Muigai argued that Kenya's government has cooperated where it can. He said that domestic prosecutors must seek a court order before obtaining personal information about suspects. However, he did not guarantee a request from the international court judges would be obeyed.

Defense lawyers have asked for Kenyatta's case to be dismissed.