- The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) has announced that he will ask the tribunal to open an investigation into the post-election violence in Kenya in December 2007 and January 2008.
Luis Moreno-Ocampo, speaking after a meeting last week in Nairobi with President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga, said he would make a formal request to the ICC next month.
"There is a reasonable basis to believe that the attacks against Kenyan civilians during the post-election violence constitute crimes against humanity under the ICC''s jurisdiction," he said at the weekend.
Article 7 of the Rome Statute, under which the ICC operates, defines a crime against humanity as "a widespread or systematic attack directed against the civilian population."
Mr Moreno-Ocampo said Mr Kibaki and Mr Odinga, who agreed to serve in a power-sharing administration following the violence, had promised to cooperate with any investigation.
The ICC has also announced that it has assigned three judges to a pre-trial chamber to deal with the Kenyan issue.
Ethnic violence engulfed the East African country after disputed elections at the end of 2007 and, following an inquiry, former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan submitted sealed materials about possible crimes to Mr Moreno-Ocampo earlier this year.
Kenya has failed to set up a local prosecution body with the country’s legislature divided over the independence of such a creation while others opted for a UN backed prosecution process.
Under the ICC's complementarity principle, the tribunal only intervenes if there are no national proceedings against those responsible for the crimes.
Once Mr Moreno-Ocampo makes a formal request to the ICC's pre-trial chamber, the court can agree to allow a case to go ahead, reject it or ask for more information.
In a press release the prosecution said that "ICC proceedings should go hand in hand with complementary investigations and prosecutions at the national level as well as healing and reconciliation processes.
"These three tracks would complement each other. Kenyans could provide an historic example for the world in how to address and prevent massive crimes."
The ICC is an independent, permanent court that investigates and prosecutes persons accused of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. It is based in The Hague in the Netherlands.
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