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Why ICC trial of six prominent Kenyans would be a first

The chief prosecutor of the world's only permanent war-crimes tribunal has accused six leading Kenyans of crimes against humanity in a case that could break Kenya's pattern of impunity.

By Correspondent / December 15, 2010

International Criminal Court's (ICC) Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo speaks during a news conference announcing suspects behind Kenya's post-election violence following the 2007 elections, in the Hague on Dec. 15.

Jerry Lampen/Reuters

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Nairobi, Kenya

After more than a year of investigations, the chief prosecutor of the world's sole standing war-crimes tribunal has accused six prominent Kenyans of orchestrating the post-election violence that killed 1,200 people three years ago.

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Luis Moreno-Ocampo said on Wednesday that he has evidence that all were involved in the perpetration of crimes against humanity, including murder and ethnic cleansing. He has brought two separate cases, with three defendants each.

If judges at the International Criminal Court (ICC) agree, the six men will be summoned to appear at The Hague, Netherlands – and issued arrest warrants if they fail to comply.

If the two cases come to trial, it will mark a first for Kenya. There has never yet been a single successful prosecution for senior Kenyan figures implicated in a series of alleged gross crimes of violence or corruption.

“Kenya is turning a page in its history, moving away from impunity and divisionism toward an era of accountability and equal opportunity,” said President Obama in a statement Wednesday.

“I believe that the Kenyan people have the courage and resolve to reject those who would drag the country back into the past and rob Kenyans of the singular opportunity that is before them to realize the country’s vast potential.”

Florence Wambugu, a woman selling grilled maize on a street corner in an upmarket Nairobi suburb, agreed with Mr Obama.

“This is something we know we cannot do ourselves, even if so many of want these people to go to court,” she said.

“In Kenya, they would buy their way to freedom. There, in Europe, we hear that you cannot do that. They must face their music, and others wanting to copy their evil deeds will be made to think twice.”

The six accused

Mr. Moreno-Ocampo, the ICC's chief prosecutor, has drawn up two cases, with three accused in each.

The first involves William Ruto, the suspended higher education minister, Henry Kosgey, the industrialization minister, and Joshua Sang, a presenter on a local-language radio station.

All are accused of involvement in crimes against humanity including murder, ethnic cleansing, targeting supporters of rival political parties, and torture.

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