Kenyans Facing Post-Election Violence Charges Appear at ICC

The International Criminal Court will hold a hearing on Sept. 1 to decide whether to confirm or drop charges of crimes against humanity against three Kenyans accused of perpetrating post-election violence in 2008.

Judge Ekaterina Trendafilova set the date today as the three suspects made their first appearance at the Hague-based court. Those facing charges include suspended Higher Education Minister William Ruto, Henry Kosgey, who stepped aside in January as industrialization minister to allow investigations into alleged graft, and radio presenter Joshua Arap Sang.

“The allegations that have been made here sound to me like they can only be possible in a movie,” Ruto said. He and Kosgey told the court that they wanted more information to fight the accusations. “I am an innocent journalist,” Sang said.

The court is scheduled to hold a hearing tomorrow for a second group of accused, including Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta, Francis Muthaura, head of the civil service, and former police chief Mohammed Hussein Ali.

The six men are alleged to have orchestrated violence following a disputed December 2007 presidential election that left 1,500 people dead and forced 300,000 to flee their homes. Peace was restored after President Mwai Kibaki signed a power-sharing accord with his political opponent, Raila Odinga, who was installed in the newly created post of prime minister.

Economy Crippled

The fighting crippled East Africa’s largest economy, with growth slowing to 1.7 percent in 2008 from 7.1 percent a year earlier, after farmers neglected their crops and tourists were scared off. The government forecasts an economic expansion of 5.7 percent this year and about 7 percent by 2013.

Lawmakers in Kenya blocked several attempts to push through legislation to establish a domestic special tribunal to try suspects, prompting the court’s chief prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, to pursue an investigation into the bloodshed.

Kibaki is spearheading a campaign to try to convince the United Nations Security Council to suspend the ICC cases for a year as the country prepares its legal system to try the cases locally. The government filed applications last week challenging the court’s authority to handle the six cases.

Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who mediated an end to the post-election crisis, urged Kenyan leaders in an April 5 statement to “abandon the language of hate and incitement and allow the ICC process to run its course.”

Trendafilova said that if any suspects make “dangerous speeches,” the court may replace its voluntary summonses with arrest warrants.

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