Kenya leaders back creation of election violence tribunal

[JURIST] Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki [official profile] and political rival Prime Minister Raila Odinga [official website] on Wednesday announced legislation establishing a commission [press release] tasked with investigating the political and ethnic violence that followed Kenya's disputed December 2007 presidential election [JURIST report]. The "Statute for the Special Tribunal" will create a tribunal to hold accountable "persons bearing the greatest responsibility for crimes against humanity" during the election aftermath. The move follows a recommendation from October's Waki report [PDF text; JURIST report] published by the specially-appointed Commission of Inquiry into Post-Election Violence (CIPEV) [JURIST report], which requested that a tribunal be established within the territorial boundaries of Kenya with the mandate to prosecute crimes – “particularly crimes against humanity” – relating to the 2007 general election. Wednesday's announcement narrowly met a CIPEV deadline to initiate such a commission or to forward the sealed list of the alleged perpetrators to the special prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website]. Among the provisions will be a requirement that any public office holder implicated in the prosecution will be suspended from duty until the matter is fully adjudicated. The bill will now be prepared by the Cabinet Committee on the National Accord and considered by the Kenyan National Assembly [official website], which must begin hearings by March or defer to the ICC.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] reported that more than 1,000 people were killed and 500,000 displaced in weeks of protests and rioting following the contentious election. In March, the Kenyan parliament approved a power-sharing agreement [JURIST report] between Kibaki and Odinga in an attempt to end the post-election violence which had sparked simmering ethnic tensions in the country. Though the CIPEV report did not include names of the suspected culprits, CIPEV head Justice Philip Waki said the commission found evidence of involvement by prominent politicians, government officials, and businessmen in Kenya but postponed disclosures to prevent the sabotage and adulteration of evidence. CIPEV reportedly delivered the names in a sealed envelope to former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan [official profile; JURIST news archive], who helped mediate the current power-sharing agreement.

 

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