Human Rights Watch (HRW) has urged Kenya’s newly elected president Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto to ‘cooperate fully’ with the International Criminal Court (ICC), and uphold and protect the bill of rights in Kenya’s constitution
Kenyatta, who beat sworn-enemy Raila Odinga in the March 4 presidential elections, was sworn in alongside Ruto on 9 April 2013.
“Kenyatta and Ruto should be held to their promises to attend their trials before the ICC,” HRW senior international justice counsel Elizabeth Evenson said.
“As president of an ICC member country, Kenyatta should also ensure that his government provides the cooperation it owes the ICC and the support it needs. Victims of Kenya’s post-election violence and their families have already waited more than five years for justice.”
Some observers wonder why Kenyatta, who allegedly played a critical role in the post-elections violence of 2007-08, should be allowed to stand as candidate for the highest office of the land.
Kenyatta and Ruto have voluntarily been attending ICC proceedings in their cases Kenyatta and Ruto, along with Ruto’s co-accused, Joshua arap Sang, HRW said.
The ICC, which is hated by many in Africa and has come under heavy criticism for its ‘systematic witch-hunt’ of African leaders, is operating on shaky grounds.
But, as it is the case in many high profile trials of such nature, the safety of witnesses for the Kenyatta and his co-accused has become a key concern for HRW.
“The ability of witnesses – whether for the prosecution or the defense – to testify securely and without fear of reprisal is a necessary ingredient for fair and credible trials,” Evenson said.
“The new government should reverse the climate of fear through publicly pledging to help ensure the safety of people who seek to assist justice efforts.”
Reports from the capital Nairobi suggest that the Kenyatta trial may collapse as many witnesses are reportedly afraid to come forward to testify, for fear of being victimised back home.
Kenyatta’s lawyers have requested that the ICC drop all charges against their client, a request rejected by the Hague-based institution.
HRW also called on the new government to uphold the bill of rights enshrined in the country’s 2010 constitution and make progress on needed reforms.
“It is essential for the Kenyan government to uphold the constitution’s bill of rights and safeguard the space open to civil society, media, and independent voices,” Evenson said.
*Photo by Ben Curtis/courtesy of AP. Kenya new leader Uhuru Kenyatta