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ICC’s Ocampo gives warning to despots

By | May 29th 2010

By Ben Agina and Alex Ndegwa

Should politicians whose vice-like grip on power lead to bloodshed face international justice? This and other issues will be on the table at a global International Criminal Court review conference in Kampala, Uganda.

The Standard On Saturday has learnt that ICC Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo, while responding to remarks by ODM Nominated MP Musa Sirma, said politicians who rig elections and those who elongate their stay in office by other means would answer to atrocities committed during such a period.

Speaking from Kampala where he is attending a curtain-raising meeting to the review conference, Sirma said he told Ocampo that although the ICC pursues those who commit genocide, they most often forgot those who cause them.

"People are killed because of greed for power…. We need crimes against humanity to include those who rig elections," said Sirma.

The Nominated MP, who was a discussant to Ocampo’s speech at the meeting, said the ICC Chief Prosecutor agreed with him that such politicians should also be held accountable for their actions.

Sirma, in Kampala in his capacity as the chairman of Parliamentarians for Global Action in Kenya, said that until the ICC installed structures to prosecute those who rigged elections, it was uncertain atrocities against humanity would be stopped.

Other Kenyan politicians at the forum was the chairman of the Parliamentary Committee of Legal Affairs and Administration of Justice, Mr Mohammed Abdikadir and his counterpart at the Departmental Committee on Administration and National Security Mr Fred Kapondi.

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Early this month, Ocampo concluded a five-day mission to Kenya to launch investigations into perpetrators of the violence that followed the disputed 2007 General Election.

At the end of the mission, he announced that he would be presenting two cases before the ICC judges, each involving two or three people.

He intended to ask the Court to issue warrants of arrest or summons in "six to seven months", he added.

Ocampo has indicated that the crimes were organised and financed by politicians and businessmen out to get or retain power from both the Party of National Unity (PNU) and the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM).

Once he has gathered sufficient evidence, the prosecutor is expected to go before the Pre-Trial Chamber to seek permission to try those he suspects committed the crimes.

Yesterday, Ocampo reiterated that he would conclude investigations by the end of the year and submit a report detailing individuals to be prosecuted.

"If they (politicians) have to commit crimes to get into office, they will get to the Hague. That is the message," he put it bluntly.

Ocampo said the court was keeping a watchful eye on more than a dozen elections across the African continent expected to take place in 2011 alone.

In Kampala, Ocampo reiterated "politicians should know that if you commit those crimes, you get a ticket to The Hague and not a ticket to Cabinet."

Ocampo, who is investigating Kenya’s post-election violence, has maintained he is not interested in "political analysis" but is determined to nail those bearing greatest "criminal responsibility" for the atrocities.

The prosecutor spoke to politicians drawn from across the globe ahead of Monday’s opening of the ICC review meeting.

He said rigging elections is often the root cause of violent conflicts and the ensuing commission of atrocities against innocent civilians in the contest for political power, a matter for which the court is moving to deal with.

The conference presents the first opportunity for the States Parties to the Rome Statute to make amendments to the Statute since it came into force on July 1 2002.

The review comes against the backdrop of reports of a plot by a section of African countries to clip the powers of the court that was established to prosecute international crimes, namely genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

Kenya is said to be among African countries lobbying to trim the powers of the ICC during the meeting in Kampala from May 31 to June 11.

The push is based on an African Union document agreed at last year’s July 3 Thirteenth Ordinary Session of the AU Assembly in Sirte, Libya.

At the forum, presidents, Foreign Affairs and Justice ministers from African countries, including Kenya, that are party to the Rome Statute, plotted changes to the law establishing the ICC and powers of its prosecutor.

Of 30 African nations that have ratified and domesticated the Rome Statute, only Chad is recorded to have objected to the onslaught.

According to the Sirte dossier, the ministers were asked to prepare a document targeting the Rome Statute’s Articles 13 and 16, which grant the UN Security Council power to refer cases to the ICC, and allowing the council to defer referrals by a year.

The Sirte document demanded that member States be allowed to assess and contribute to evidence collected by ICC "particularly against senior State officials..."

Further it expressed "concern over the conduct of the ICC prosecutor" and lobbied for a code of conduct "for exercise of discretionary powers relating particularly to the powers by the prosecutor to initiate cases at his own discretion."

Ocampo petitioned the ICC judges to allow him investigate the Kenyan case after President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga declined to have the Government refer the matter to the Hague-based court.

The Pre-trial Chamber II judges on March 31 sanctioned a full-scale investigation into the post-election violence in which at least 1,300 people were killed and more than 300,000 displaced.

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