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Kenya: Promptly Establish Special Tribunal

Government, Donors Should Support Commission’s Findings on Election Violence


(New York, October 15, 2008) - The Kenyan government and international partners should strongly support the call by the Waki commission investigating post-election violence to create a special tribunal to end Kenya's cycle of impunity, Human Rights Watch said today.

"The Waki commission has done an admirable job describing the causes of the violence and assembling evidence," said Georgette Gagnon, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. "Now the politicians need to set up the special tribunal it recommends. Justice is crucial for Kenya's stability."  

The report of the Commission of Inquiry into Post-Election Violence, headed by Justice Philip Waki, was published on October 15, 2008. The commission concluded that politicians on all sides had organized and funded attacks on supporters of their opponents. The inquiry also found that security forces responded inappropriately, using excessive force against civilians, intervening to have allies released from custody and failing to investigate individuals responsible for the violence. Human Rights Watch said that a complete overhaul of Kenya's corrupt and abusive police force, as recommended by the Waki commission, is long overdue.

The Waki commission report explores the causes of the violence, namely the lack of accountability by several Kenyan governments for repeated bouts of election violence dating back to the 1990s. The commission recommends the establishment of a special tribunal as essential to ensuring that key perpetrators of the most recent violence, in 2007 and 2008, are investigated and prosecuted.

Human Rights Watch welcomed the commission's recommendation that the special tribunal "seek accountability against persons bearing the greatest responsibility for crimes, particularly crimes against humanity, relating to the 2007 General Elections in Kenya." If the proposed tribunal is not established - or its efforts are undermined - the commission recommends that its sealed list of individuals suspected of responsibility for serious crimes be turned over to the International Criminal Court at The Hague.

"Kenya's political leadership needs to break with the past and urgently carry out these recommendations," said Gagnon. "It is Kenyans who will pay the price in future violence if politicians allow this important report to become just another unheeded warning."

In one significant omission, the Waki commission report failed to address the political violence that has scarred the Mt. Elgon district in Western Province for over two years. The mandate of the proposed special tribunal should include crimes committed in Mt. Elgon because the violence there has been driven by political competition as much, if not more so, than in other parts of the country.

The Commission of Inquiry into the Post-Election Violence was established as part of the agreement mediated by former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and signed by Kenya's two main political parties in February 2008. It was tasked with investigating the violence surrounding Kenya's controversial December 2007 presidential election, in which more than 1,100 people were killed and more than 300,000 people displaced from their homes. The commission published its report after a three-month investigation.

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