By Human Rights Watch
Published August 31, 2011
A “confirmation of charges” hearing, to determine whether the first case in the Kenya situation at the International Criminal Court (ICC) should be sent to trial, begins before an ICC pre-trial chamber in The Hague, The Netherlands, on September 1, 2011. The hearing is expected to conclude by September 12, 2011.
In the first Kenya case, the ICC prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, has accused William Samoei Ruto, Henry Kiprono Kosgey, and Joshua arap Sang of committing crimes against humanity during the violence that followed the December 27, 2007 disputed presidential election in Kenya. A confirmation of charges hearing in the second Kenya case, which involves charges of crimes against humanity also allegedly committed during the post-election violence against Francis Kirimi Muthaura, Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta, and Mohammad Hussein Ali, is expected to begin on September 22, 2011.
Ruto and Kosgey are senior officials of the then opposition party, Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) as well as members of parliament and former cabinet ministers. Sang was a vernacular radio programme host at the time of the violence. They are accused of violence toward supporters of the president’s party, Party of National Unityb (PNU) while those charged in the second case are accused of violence against backers of the ODM.
“The April appearance of Ruto and his co-defendants in the dock at the ICC was an extraordinary moment, the first time many Kenyans had seen their political leaders called to account,” said Elizabeth Evenson, senior international justice counsel at Human Rights Watch. “This hearing is another step toward ending impunity for Kenya’s election-related violence.”
The hearing is not a trial and will not determine the guilt of Ruto, Kosgey, or Sang. Instead, the limited purpose is to allow the judges to evaluate whether the prosecutor has enough evidence to move ahead with a trial. The defendants will have the opportunity to object to the charges, challenge the prosecutor’s evidence, and present their own evidence. The defendants have indicated that they each intend to call witnesses.
Under the court’s innovative system allowing for victim participation, 327 victims have been authorized to participate in the hearing through a common legal representative. On behalf of these victims, the legal representative may make open and closing statements, and may also seek the court’s permission to question witnesses and provide written submissions.
The Kenya investigation ” the ICC’s fifth” was opened in March 2010 after the prosecutor received authorization from the court. The ICC prosecutor’s investigations have focused on the violence in Kenya that followed what was widely perceived as a rigged presidential election in favor of the incumbent, Mwai Kibaki, in December 2007.