Friday, April 2, 2010

Justice still could come for victims of 2007-2008 post-election violence in Kenya

Word that the International Criminal Court in The Hague had decided to investigate widespread violence in Kenya that displaced hundreds of thousands following the country's disputed 2007 election inspires only one reaction -- it's about time! What was the international community waiting for -- an engraved invitation? Everyone knows something evil happened in Kenya in 2007 and 2008, and many suspect the government headed by President Mwai Kibaki was responsible sparking the tribal violence that began after police attacked demonstrators protesting the results of December's balloting. More than 1,000 were killed and more than 300,000 displaced by the weeks of violence before former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan arranged a coalition government including Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga, according to Cable News Network (CNN). Annan had been pushing the coalition government to order such an investigation, but grew frustrated after the divided administration missed a September deadline for putting the probe together, CNN said. Annan, who warned Kenya's government that failure to act would prompt ICC intervention, personally submitted a list of suspects to the panel in July. But the three-judge panel that approved the investigation was not unanimous, with Judge Hans-Peter Kaul finding that the alleged crimes did not amount to crimes against humanity, the ICC's standard for action, CNN said. In a prepared statement, Annan said he approved of the ICC's decision to investigate. "This is an important day for justice in Kenya," he said. "Justice for the victims suddenly looks brighter." An attorney for Human Rights Watch, an international watchdog group, also applauded the panel's vote. "The decision today can help Kenya turn the corner," said Elizabeth Evenson of the group's International Justice Program. "A full investigation into possible crimes against humanity can help restore confidence among Kenya's people that elections don't have to turn into bloodbaths." Kenya's next election is scheduled for 2012.

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