International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda [official profile] on Monday began her first official visit to Kenya with a statement [ICC press release] that the ICC will not delay the scheduled trial of four Kenyans facing charges of crimes against humanity, even though two of the accused will be top candidates in the Kenyan elections next year. Bensouda is on a five-day visit to Kenya as part of the ICC's preparation for the trial [case materials] of former Kenyan minister William Ruto and journalist Joshua Arap Sang, which will begin [JURIST report] on April 10, and the trial [case materials] of Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta and former civil service chief Francis Muthaura, scheduled to begin on April 11. The four men have been accused and charged with involvement in the 2007-08 Kenyan post-election violence [JURIST news archive] with Ruto and Sang facing three counts of murder, forcible transfer and persecution. Kenyatta and Muthaura are facing five counts of orchestrating murder, rape, forcible transfer and persecution during the presidential election violence in which more than 1,000 people died. In her official statement Bensouda made clear that the ICC will not adjust its calendar despite the fact that Kenyatta and Ruto are to be significant participants [Africa Review report] in next year's election:
The ICC Judges have agreed there are substantial grounds to believe that the four suspects committed the crimes they are charged with and that the cases should go to trial. The four are presumed innocent until proven guilty and the burden of proof is on my Office to prove the cases against them beyond reasonable doubt. Let me stress this: the people of Kenya are not on trial; the Government of Kenya is not on trial and no ethnic community is on trial before the ICC. The allegations concern individual criminal responsibility.Bensouda went on to state that even if Kenyatta and Ruto win the upcoming elections they will not be granted immunity. Bensouda is scheduled to meet with top Kenyan officials as well as post-election violence victims and witnesses during her trip.
Bensouda was sworn in as ICC Prosecutor [JURIST report] in June. That month the ICC expressed its desire to start the two Kenyan trials simultaneously [JURIST report] to avoid any appearance of bias in the March 2013 presidential election. In May, the appeals chamber of the ICC rejected [JURIST report] the jurisdiction challenges in the two cases presented by the defense, clearing the way for trial. The defense lawyers had argued that the court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over the cases. The appeal stemmed from the pre-trial chamber's decision to confirm the charges [JURIST report] against the four men in January. The ICC claimed jurisdiction over the case despite Kenya's calls for dismissal [JURIST report]. The Kenyan government argued that it was capable of prosecuting the accused men domestically.