The International Criminal Court summoned six Kenyans to appear before a pre-trial chamber over their alleged involvement in post-election violence in 2008.
The officials include Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta, Henry Kosgey, who resigned as Industrialization Minister in January, and suspended Higher Education Minister William Ruto, the Hague-based court said in a statement posted on its website.
Others summoned are the head of the civil service, Francis Muthaura, former police chief Mohammed Hussein Ali and Joshua Arap Sang, a radio presenter, according to a separate statement. All six men deny the charges.
“The chamber finds that the contextual elements for crimes against humanity alleged in the prosecutor’s application have been satisfied,” the court said. Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo requested that the summons be issued in December.
Fighting flared between ethnic groups in Kenya following a disputed December 2007 presidential vote, leaving 1,500 people dead and forcing 300,000 to flee their homes. The clashes abated after President Mwai Kibaki, an ethnic Kikuyu, signed a power-sharing accord in February 2008 with then-opposition leader Raila Odinga, of the Luo group, who was named prime minister. No one has been convicted for orchestrating the crimes.
The government plans to challenge both whether the cases are admissible and whether the Hague-based court has jurisdiction over them, Justice Minister Mutula Kilonzo, Attorney General Amos Wako and Internal Security Minister George Saitoti said today in a statement, according to the Nairobi-based Daily Nation’s website.
Kenyatta, who is also deputy prime minister and son of the country’s first post-independence president, Jomo Kenyatta, said he welcomed the ICC’s summons.
“I will finally have the opportunity to be heard and am entirely confident of my innocence,” Kenyatta said in a statement posted on his Facebook site today. The statement was confirmed by his aide, Njee Muturu, in a phone interview.
Ali, Sang and Kosgey said in interviews and through lawyers that they’ve agreed to appear before the court, the Daily Nation reported on its website today.
Kenya’s main stock index fell for an eighth day today to its lowest level in 10 months. The All-Share index was down 1.37 percent to 73.25 at the 3 p.m. close in Nairobi, the capital. The Kenyan shilling weakened 0.6 percent to 83.95 against the dollar, its lowest level in 17 years, according to Aly-Khan Satchu, an independent analyst in Nairobi.
“The ICC summons adds to the bad news that we already have,” including concern about elections next year, rising oil prices and domestic inflation, Eric Musau, an analyst at African Alliance Securities Kenya Ltd. in Nairobi, said in a phone interview today.
Ruto, Kosgey and Sang jointly face four charges including murder, torture, persecution and the deportation or forcible transfer of people, which constitute a crime against humanity, the ICC said.
Kenyatta, Muthaura and Ali may have also “committed or contributed to the commission” of crimes including murder, rape and other forms of sexual violence that also constitute a crime against humanity, the court said.
“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,” Elizabeth Evenson, senior international justice counsel at New York-based Human Rights Watch, said in an e-mailed statement today. “We look forward to a judicial process without political interference and where the rights of the accused are fully respected.”
Kibaki has opposed the ICC’s prosecution of Kenyan suspects, saying the cases should be handled by a domestic tribunal. A reorganization of the judiciary promised in the country’s new constitution enacted in August will ensure the cases can be brought before capable Kenyan courts, Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka said in January.
Previous failures by Kenya to push through changes required to set up a local tribunal led the ICC to pursue its own probe.
A Kenyan delegation led by Musyoka visited United Nations Security Council President Li Baodong on March 7 to lobby for the cases to be deferred for a year, according to an e-mailed statement from Kalonzo’s office yesterday.
Kalonzo held a meeting with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in New York yesterday on the ICC process and handed over a message from Kibaki, according to a statement yesterday on the UN News Service website.
“It’s embarrassing that Kenyans have to go to a court outside of the country,” Kilonzo told reporters in Nairobi today.