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UN rights chief calls for special tribunal for Kenya’s post-election violence

UN rights chief calls for special tribunal for Kenya’s post-election violence

Family at camp in Kericho driven from their home by Kenya’s post-election political violence
The United Nations human rights chief today urged the Kenyan Government to reconsider setting up a special tribunal to pursue accountability for the crimes committed during the violence that followed the disputed December 2007 elections.

“I have been assured that this option is still open,” High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said in a statement issued at the end of a three-day visit to Kenya.

Ms. Pillay arrived in Kenya following a visit to Uganda, where she participated in the Review Conference of the Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), which is due to conclude in Kampala on 11 June.

While she welcomed the ICC’s involvement in the investigations into the post-election violence in Kenya, she warned that its role is limited.

“The involvement of the International Criminal Court (ICC) is a major development in the fight against the current almost total lack of accountability for the terrible events that took place in the wake of the elections,” Ms. Pillay said.

However, “the ICC will, for practical reasons and as a matter of policy, only be able to address a small number of high-profile cases of people suspected of war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide,” she added.

An estimated 1,300 people were killed and hundreds of thousands displaced in the violence, which also included widespread rape, arson, robbery and other crimes.

Last month ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo conducted a five-day trip to Kenya to start investigations into the violence, and to meet with some of those directly affected by the unrest.

Ms. Pillay also voiced concerns about Kenya’s newly established Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission, which she said has so far been a “disappointment to many.” In addition, she highlighted issues of witness protection, the forthcoming referendum on the proposed new constitution, and the shortcomings of the Kenyan police.

“The difficulties facing Kenya are serious, but definitely not insurmountable, as the country enters this critical period encompassing the referendum on a new constitution, widespread reforms, and the 2012 election.

“I urge everyone – politicians, religious figures, media, ethnic leaders as well as the general public – to think about what is best for Kenya, what gives Kenya the best chance to come out of this tense and difficult period of its history with its head held high,” she stated.

The High Commissioner touched on the same themes in a wide-ranging address earlier in the day to the University of Nairobi, the last stop on a visit that also included meetings with top Government officials and parliamentarians, as well as with Kenya’s National Commission for Human Rights, civil society organizations and others.

“Ultimately, it is an independent, credible and efficient national judicial system which can best safeguard the rights of individuals and communities, deter further abuse, and instil confidence in governmental institutions.

“Indeed, the principle of accountability for unlawful and abusive conduct underpins good governance and societal cohesiveness. Conversely, impunity and corruption may – and routinely do – corrode public trust in the rule of law and in justice,” she told the gathering.