NEW YORK (Reuters)—Three years after an eruption of ethnic violence in Kenya killed 1,220 people and displaced more than 350,000, the International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor is poised to identify six politicians he believes orchestrated the post-election mayhem.
The six will be named on December 15, Luis Moreno-Ocampo told Reuters in his first confirmation of the date during an interview on Wednesday.
Moreno-Ocampo, prosecutor at the world’s first permanent court set up to try individuals for war crimes, says he will bring two cases in Kenya, with three people charged in each.
Rather than issue warrants for their arrests, however, Moreno-Ocampo said he would request summonses for them to appear in court, enabling them to remain free until they are tried at the court headquarters in The Hague.
Plans to name the six that the ICC considers “most responsible” for crimes committed in the weeks after the December 2007 election have already roiled Kenya.
Top politicians, including suspended Higher Education Minister William Ruto, accuse the ICC of trying to influence the outcome of the country’s next presidential election in 2012. Ruto is a key political leader in the Rift Valley, site of most of the post-poll violence.
Legal challenges have also slowed the ICC’s seven-month-old investigation. Kenyan judge Kalpana Rawal postponed testimony from police officials on Tuesday after they requested immunity from prosecution for their statements.
But Moreno-Ocampo said he “can’t concern himself” with the possible political impact of the ICC charges on the 2012 vote.
“If we don’t investigate the crimes, they will be repeated,” he said. “And it’s not just a Kenyan issue; it will affect neighboring countries economically and in terms of refugees as well.”
Moreno-Ocampo, in New York this week to address the U.N. Security Council on Sudan’s troubled Darfur region, has also said he is looking into whether North Korean forces committed war crimes when they shelled civilian areas in South Korea last month and allegedly sank a South Korean warship in March.
The legal situation is complicated by the fact that North and South Korea are still technically at war. Moreno-Ocampo said it was “too soon” to decide whether the ICC will open a formal investigation. “I have no time frame,” he said.
On Darfur, the prosecutor said ongoing rapes of women by Sudanese soldiers and militias stationed around refugee camps constituted a continuing form of genocide — a crime of which the ICC has already accused President Omar Hassan al-Bashir.
“Normally we think about people killed by bullets,” he said, “but (ICC) judges are confirming that this is a systematic campaign of rape.” Bashir’s forces “are not stopping the crimes, they are stopping information about the crimes.”
Moreno-Ocampo has warned ICC signatory countries of their obligation to arrest Bashir if he visits their territory.
Diplomatic pressure recently forced the Sudanese leader to stay away from high-profile gatherings in Libya and the Central African Republic. “Bashir is under a form of house arrest,” said Moreno-Ocampo. “It’s country arrest.”
The court, which as well as Bashir has also charged two Sudanese officials and two rebel leaders with crimes in Darfur, is gathering information and plans to bring more charges against Sudanese officials next April, he added.
Moreno-Ocampo also said ICC ties were improving with the United States, which has not ratified the 1998 Rome treaty that established the court and consequently is not a member.
U.S. President George W. Bush’s administration adopted what Moreno-Ocampo called a policy of pragmatic engagement over Sudan and this relationship has become more “open and friendly” under President Barack Obama, the prosecutor said.
One example was when Washington allowed the ICC to interview several Kenyans on U.S. soil as part of preparations for next week’s charges.