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Kenyan lawyers seek independent court to try transnational crimes

12 April 2016, 17:22

Nairobi (Xinhua) - Kenyan lawyers have kicked off plans recently to establish an independent High Court Division to exclusively deal with crimes against humanity among other transnational crimes in the East African nation.

The lawyers' umbrella body, the Law Society of Kenya (LSK) president Isaac Okero said Kenya must have mechanisms to protect citizens from recurrence of political violence and criminality after General Elections.

"The establishment of a functioning and independent High Court Division dealing with crimes against humanity is a step that would give despairing Kenyans hope," Okero said in a statement issued in Nairobi on Monday.

He said people responsible for tampering with witnesses and political interference of cases at the International Criminal Court (ICC) should also be brought to book.

"We are soon entering General Election season with perpetrators of post-election violence eight years ago still at large. Historical injustices remain unresolved," Okero said.

Legal experts say Kenya's High Court under Section 8 of the International Crimes Act has the jurisdiction to conduct trials over persons who are responsible for international crimes committed locally or abroad by a Kenyan, or committed in any place against a Kenyan.

That jurisdiction has been in place since January 1, 2009, when the International Crimes Act, 2008 became effective.

The Act domesticated the Rome Statute which defines and incorporates the crimes of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity into Kenyan law.

The LSK statement came after the ICC terminated the case against Kenyan deputy president William Ruto and journalist Joshua Sang, faltering efforts to bring to justice those responsible for the deadly 2007-2008 election violence.

The ICC judges vacated crimes against humanity charges against Ruto and Sang, ending the last ICC prosecution directly related to the violence. However, the decision may be subject to appeal.

Charges in a parallel ICC case against President Uhuru Kenyatta were officially withdrawn in 2015, and before that cases against three other Kenyans had also failed to go to trial before the ICC.

The Kenyan lawyers said victims of the 2007 post-election violence, including some internally displaced persons who received paltry monetary compensation, are still struggling with trauma, noting that peace without truth and justice is a fragile peace.

- Xinhua


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