Chief Prosecutor for the International Criminal Court (ICC) Luís Moreno Ocampo will be visiting Kenya next week as part of his investigation into the country’s 2007-8 post-election violence. Before leaving for his week long trip to Nairobi, Ocampo spoke to the IJT about the case.
By Thomas Bwire & Thijs Bouwknegt, The Hague
Why did the ICC authorise you to start investigations in Kenya?
Normally states have their own police and judiciary. When the people are protected by the national judiciary, I should not intervene. Colombia for example has national prosecutors doing the job so I do not need to intervene. However, when people are not represented, when no one takes care of their interests, the ICC can step in.
That’s what happened in Kenya after the 2007 elections. I told the ICC judges that prominent Kenyans organised and financed the violence, guided by political motives to gain or regain power. They allowed me to probe the violence, so I will go to Kenya to start investigations and talk with the victims.
Don’t you think the Kenyan justice system is strong enough to deal with the issue itself?
No, we are not making any judgements about the Kenyan justice system. In fact, the judge in the Kenyan ICC is a Kenyan judge. The main reason to step in is that there are no national proceedings in Kenya about the post-election violence. And that’s the issue. When there is no case, we do the case. We are an independent part of the international judiciary system, supported by Kenya and many other states. We investigate crimes, follow the evidence and prosecute those most responsible.
How can the ICC be involved in the process of reconciliation?
We help peace in the effort to overcome crime. The common goal is to be sure that the next Kenyan elections in 2012 are peaceful elections.
I’m going to Kenya in May and I’d love to meet the local leaders, the tribal leaders, the people in the slums, discussing how to help them. For me – coming from Argentina where we had these serious crimes - the way to reconcile is the law. If someone rapes my daughter, no one can force me to reconcile with this person. However, according to the legal system, I cannot kill him. That is why the justice effort could help to reconcile people. As a prosecutor, I have to be impartial. My duty is to investigate, so I am willing to meet the people involved, and listen to them.
The last time you came to Kenya the victims were really looking forward to meet you but most of them were disappointed.
I know but I could not meet the victims before the judges authorised my investigation. At that time, I came to discuss with the Kenyan authorities what I should do. I had to inform them that I would open investigations and I had to request their authorization. I said I would return to Kenya as soon as the judges approved my investigation and that’s what I’m trying to do right now.
Why should Kenya agree to let its citizens be tried by the ICC when other nations, including the US and Israel, are not even members?
I think being a member of the ICC is a sign of sophistication. For South America and Africa, it is important that [the people] don’t think they can be protected by armies, that they are protected by the law. Kenya is an example of how we can use the law to do justice to the victims and to prevent violence for the future. It is an example of working together, the Kenyan authorities, the Kenyan people and the court.
What will you tell the Kenyan population during your visit?
I’ll go to Kenya to listen to people’s stories about what happened and to talk about their expectations of the ICC. I will tell them that I can only request justice for them, I cannot send people to jail. People have to understand that if you commit violence, you will go to jail.
Kenya is a democratic country. That’s why its leaders agreed with our investigation, wherein we’ll mostly listen to the people. If we keep on requesting justice, eventually it will prevail.