Kenya: the case against the police

The first thing to say about today’s Kenyan ruling is, unfortunately, what a shambles the ICC is. Not, incidentally, because of the court decision, which was fairly predictable (will come on to that in a minute), but because the whole Internet infrastructure of the court seems to collapse when a case that it is pursuing generates interest from more than a handful of casual observers.

I woke up this morning at a leisurely hour, grabbed myself a cup of coffee and vowed to try and cover the court decision from the comfort of my own living room. I was undecided about whether the pyjamas would be staying on.

My initial findings, upon booting up the computer, was that the website of the ICC had unequivocally crashed. And it wasn’t about to come back up any time soon. Interest in the case is huge among Kenyans, which perhaps isn’t all that surprising. Whereas many in the Congo or Uganda are somewhat lukewarm towards the ICC, Kenya has a thriving and advanced media scene, and a highly literate population. Moreover, unlike in the Congo or Uganda, this case is directly targeting people at the high echelons of government. This case matters!

So, yep, the website had well and truly crashed. Which was fine by me. It meant that I didn’t have to agonise about the decision of whether the PJs were coming off or staying on (off, definitely), and I could simply tootle down to the ICC henceforth, to cover the decision from there.

For those hoping to follow it in Kenya, though, it must have been disappointing – and a needless insult to victims representatives over there, which the ICC could, with a little bit of planning (and maybe a better communications budget) have rectified.

(Once at the ICC, I discovered that the wireless Internet in the press room was also playing up. But, suppressing thoughts of conspiracy theories as best I could, I persevered.)

On to the decision. For those non-ICC followers, this decision relates to accusations that have been made against six senior Kenyan officials, three from the government and three who are supporters of the opposition Orange Democratic Movement (ODM).

Four of the cases were confirmed and will now proceed to trial. Two were thrown out. You can read my IWPR article about the verdict here.

The particular point I want to make in this blog entry is about one of the defendants whose case was thrown out. Mohammed Ali, currently chief of Kenya’s Postal Corporation, was accused of helping co-ordinate police violence in the eastern areas of Nakuru and Naivasha. In their ruling, the pre-trial judges said there was not enough evidence to suggest that the police had participated in violence there.

Ken Wafula, a human rights campaigner from the area, disagrees. He maintains that the police were responsible for half the shootings in the area during the violence that followed the 2007 election.

Abdullahi Boru Halakhe, from the International Crisis Group (ICG), tells me that he was also surprised with this verdict.

This may suggest not that the police are free of responsibility, but that the OTP didn’t do a very good job of gathering evidence in the area. When I met Wafula during the investigation, in his office in Eldoret, he was becoming increasingly frustrated that ICC investigators were spending too much time with human rights campaigners in Nairobi and not enough with the folk on-the-ground  in the east of the country.

I imagine that the case against Ali is not over yet. The Prosecutor has the option of resubmitting the case to the court, providing that he can dig up fresh evidence. Wafula says that he has plenty he can provide.

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