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International Criminal Court Investigations Kenya

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On December 30, 2007, sitting President Mwai Kibaki of the Party of National Unity (PNU) was declared winner of the Kenyan general election. The supporters of Kibaki's opponent, Raila Odinga of the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM), accused Kibaki's PNU of election fraud and demanded a recount. International observers considered the electoral count to be manipulated by both parties.

After Kibaki's swearing-in as President, massive violent riots broke out throughout Kenya. The riots soon escalated into violence between different tribes. The violence was mostly directed against members of Kibaki's ethnic group, the Kikuyu's, by members of Odinga's ethnic group, the Luo's. Within six weeks, more than 1,000 people were killed throughout the country and approximately 500,000 fled their homes.

A month after the election, former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, arrived in the country to mediate a peaceful agreement between both parties. On February 28, 2008, Kibaki and Odinga signed a power-sharing agreement establishing a coalition government. Kibaki remained the President and Odinga gained the position of Prime Minister.

In November 2009, the ICC prosecutor announced that he would request permission from the ICC to start an investigation into crimes against humanity committed after the disputed election. This was the first time in which the prosecutor decided to investigate a case on his own authority. The move followed after Annan handed to the prosecutor a list of a dozen high-ranking government officials allegedly responsible for organizing the violence. The government had also failed to set up a local tribunal to try the masterminds of the ethnic violence.

On March 31, 2010, the ICC authorized the prosecutor to open formal criminal investigations into the political leaders who organized the violence. In the articles and documents below, GPF tracks the developments of the ongoing investigations in Kenya.



Kenya’s ICC Accused Unite (December 3, 2012)

Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto, both accused by the International Criminal Court (ICC) of committing crimes against humanity in the violent aftermath of the 2007/2008 Kenyan elections are planning on running for President and Deputy President. The two men represent the two opposing tribes that caused the outbreak of violence, where apparent vote rigging led to rioting that “quickly turned into ethnic killings of members of Kibaki's Kikuyu tribe, followed by reprisal attacks against Kalenjins.”  Their alliance is meant as a statement to the international community. Both men deny the ICC charges and say the outcome of the elections in March 2013 will be a referendum on the ICC. (Aljazeera)

International Criminal Court on Trial in Kenya (May 2012)

The International Criminal Court (ICC) is tangled up with Kenya’s public and political life, especially after the ICC indicted two of Kenya’s potential candidates for the 2012 presidential elections. The two indicted Kenyans are high level officials who allegedly funded violence in response to protests of Kenya’s corrupt 2007 elections. The ICC took up the case after Kenyan courts provided the officials with impunity. Kenyans are still positive about the ICC’s actions, with 54% public approval ratings, but that number is down from 68% in mid-2009.  (The Nation)

ICC’s Kenya Decision is No Cause for Celebration (January 31, 2012)

Kenya’s rigged election in 2007 caused a national civilian uprising. In response, powerful officers ordered widespread attacks, killing 1,000 citizens and displacing 600,000 more. The ICC’s decision to pursue charges against four Kenyan leaders for crimes against humanities is a small step for justice. But Kenya’s political elite argues that seeking justice would only create further instability in the country, encouraging impunity for thousands of others who are responsible for similar abuses. Kenya’s national courts stall in prosecuting offenders. This Al Jazeera article states that Kenya’s judicial institutions should still be held responsible to investigate crimes, fight impunity, and protect their citizens, regardless of ICC actions. (Al Jazeera)


In April this year the Kenyan government appealed to the International Criminal Court (ICC) to stop the proceedings against the six suspects accused of crimes against humanity. The Kenyan government requested the ICC to dismiss the case since it had initiated its own investigations and commenced constitutional and judicial reforms. However, the Pre-Trial Chamber rejected the appeal and stated that Kenya had not provided sufficient evidence that it was conducting its own investigation. With the rejection of the appeal, the case will now proceed and start the confirmation of charges against the six suspects. (Hague Justice Portal)

The Defense Strategy: Ruto, Kosgey and Sang (August 25, 2011)

On September 1, The International Criminal Court (ICC) will begin the confirmation of charges against three of the six Kenyans suspected of having committed crimes against humanity in the context of the 2007-2008 post-election violence. The defense lawyers for the suspects, former Higher Education Minister William Samoei Ruto, former Industrialization Minister Henry Kiprono Kosgey and the journalist Joshua arap Sang, have stated that they will not only challenge the court’s jurisdiction but also that the charges do not meet  the threshold of crimes against humanity. The hearing on September 1 will determine whether the prosecutor’s evidence is enough to bring the alleged criminals to trial. (Open Society Justice Initiative)

Truth and Consequences in Kenya (May 23, 2011)

The International Criminal Court prosecutes only the most serious crimes, therefore it is essential that domestic justice systems complement the work of the Court.  Following the post-election violence in Kenya in 2007, the government established a Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC).  The TJRC has a much broader mandate than the ICC and is investigating causes of the conflict dating back as far as 1963.  Civil society organizations have, however, claimed that the TJRC lacks credibility.  A major concern is the Commission’s power to recommend amnesty for perpetrators, which may perpetuate impunity. (IRIN)

Rough Road Ahead as Kenya Plans to Lobby UN's Big Five (February 2, 2011)

The US has indicated it will not support a planned request by Kenya to the Security Council, to defer the ICC case against six high ranking Kenyan officials. Without the support of the US, it is unlikely Kenya will succeed, as France and Britain have also indicated they are not in favor of a deferral. Apart from problems of politicking, some observers also argue a referral is wrong in law. Kenya's campaign is endorsed by the African Union; while unlikely to succeed, it is indicative of rising anti-ICC sentiment in Africa. (Daily Nation)


The African Union announced its support of Kenya's attempt to delay an ICC trial of six individuals suspected of instigating post-election violence in 2008, which resulted in some 1,200 deaths and over 300,000 refugees. The African Union and Kenya argue that the six, which include Kenyan Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta, should instead be tried domestically. The chief prosecutor of the ICC Luis Moreno-Ocampo requested last December that charges nevertheless be filed against the six at the ICC, precisely because Kenya has failed to try them in local courts. (Bloomberg)
On December 16 2010 ICC chief prosecutor, Luis Moreno Ocampo, requested that the tribunal issue summons against six Kenyan citizens, including Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta. Less than a week later, Kenyan MPs voted to withdraw from the ICC - a move that contradicts previous assurances that Kenya would cooperate with the tribunal. While this vote has no immediate effect and cannot affect ongoing cases, it seems to confirm the growing backlash against the ICC in Africa.

Kenyan Cooperation Crucial to ICC Probe (April 23, 2010)

The International Criminal Court (ICC) recently authorized the opening of formal criminal investigations by the ICC prosecutor into Kenya's post-election violence in 2007. The alleged instigators of the crimes are widely believed to include a number of high-ranking government officials. In this article, Geoffrey Nyamboga asserts that a successful investigation is of crucial importance for the legitimacy of the Court and the future of Kenya. Much will depend on Nairobi's promise to cooperate with the Court, irrespective of the direction of the ICC investigations. (IWPR)

Court Authorizes Inquiry of Kenyans (March 31, 2010)

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has authorized prosecutor Luis-Moreno Ocampo to open formal criminal investigations into Kenya's post-election violence in 2007. This is the first case in which the prosecutor decided to start investigations on his own authority. The ICC stepped in after the country's political leaders refused to set up a special tribunal to prosecute those responsible for the killings. Several of the suspected perpetrators of the violence are high-ranking government ministers. The question remains whether the Kenyan suspects will arrive at the court anytime soon. (New York Times)

Panic Over Ocampo's List to ICC (March 6, 2010)

The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Luis Moreno-Ocampo, has recently handed over to ICC judges a sealed list which contains the names of 20 prominent Kenyans. According to Moreno-Ocampo, these persons bear the gravest responsibility for Kenya's post-election violence in 2008. The handing over of this list has caused fear and panic among the suspects as well as the victims of the violence. The question remains whether the Kenyan authorities will actually hand over the suspects to the Court once the names are made public. (Daily Nation)



Kenya Disagrees with ICC Investigation of Election Violence (December 16, 2009)

The International Criminal Court (ICC) is widely expected to announce that it will open investigations to identify and prosecute the main perpetrators of post-election violence in Kenya in 2007. This video looks back at the major developments and the implications that an ICC investigation will have on Kenya. (Voice of America)

International Prosecution of Senior Kenyan Politicians for Post–Election Violence Looks Inevitable (November 8, 2009)

The Kenyan Government has refused to grant the ICC prosecutor, Luis Moreno- Ocampo, permission to prosecute the Kenyan politicians who were responsible for post election violence in 2007. In order to prosecute, Ocampo must seek permission from the ICC's own pre trail chamber. Ocampo's evidence against the accused leaders is strong and it is likely the ICC will approve the trial. But the ICC must tread carefully to avoid fuelling further turmoil in the lead-up to the 2012 elections: the leaders who used violence to gain power, are likely to use violence to try to keep control. (Christain Science Monitor)

Prosecutor Arrives in Kenya on Trail of Post-Election Violence (November 6, 2009)

The ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo is set to start an investigation into the bloodbath that followed the disputed election of December 2007. This comes after the Kenyan government failed to set up local tribunals to try the people responsible for orchestrating the attacks which left more than 1,100 people dead. The decision to investigate this case is a departure for the ICC, which has so far confined itself to cases related to civil war and armed conflicts. The probe into post-election violence also raises the usual dilemma of justice vs. peace, with some commentators arguing that Kenya's fragile coalition may not survive the process. (The Independent)

Kenya and the International Criminal Court (September 2009)

This 5-minute mini-documentary by the Hauser Centre, shows how leading figures in the field of international justice discuss the possibility of an ICC case in Kenya in light of the controversy over the fact that all of the ICC's current cases are also in Africa. This discussion took place in September 2009, during the Consultative Conference on International Criminal Justice at the United Nations in New York. (Hauser Centre)

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