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Kenya’s Odinga Says ICC Hearings on Violence Are ‘Unfortunate’

The International Criminal Court hearings against Kenyan suspects is “unprecedented and unfortunate,” said Prime Minister Raila Odinga.

“Unprecedented because it has never happened to our citizens before,” Odinga said in an e-mailed statement from the East African nation’s capital, Nairobi, today. “Unfortunate because it is a big statement on the failure of our national institutions. From the ICC, we expect nothing but justice for the victims and a fair process for the suspects.”

Six Kenyans accused of committing crimes against humanity following the disputed December 2007 presidential election are due to make their first appearance before the Hague-based International Criminal Court on April 7 and April 8. At these initial hearings, the suspects will find out details about the proposed charges against them.

The Kenyan government last week filed applications alleging the charges are admissible and disputing the court’s jurisdiction. President Mwai Kibaki is championing efforts to convince the United Nations Security Council to defer the cases for a year while the country changes its legal system to enable its courts to hear cases stemming from post election violence. Previously, lawmakers have blocked several attempts to set-up a local tribunal.

Two months of fighting between ethnic groups left 1,500 people dead and displaced 300,000 in East Africa’s largest economy. The ethnic clashes subsided after Kibaki, a member of the largest tribe, Kikuyu, formed a unity government with his political rival Odinga, of the Luo group.

The ICC issued summonses for Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta, suspended Higher Education Minister William Ruto, head of the public service Francis Muthaura and Henry Kosgey, who stepped down as industrialization minister in January. Former police chief Mohammed Hussein Ali and Joshua Arap Sang, a radio presenter, were also identified as suspects. All six men defend their innocence and say they will cooperate with the ICC.

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