NAIROBI The International Criminal Court's chief prosecutor will seek arrest warrants by the end of the year for up to six Kenyans from both sides of the election violence that killed 1,300 people in 2008.
Luis Moreno-Ocampo told Reuters during a five-day visit to Kenya that although there was evidence against many more people, he could only prosecute the two to three most responsible from both sides and would leave others for local courts.
"The plan is to present the two cases with six people before the end of the year and then we hope to have the hearings in 2011," he said in an interview. "We will select the worst incidents ... There are more persons responsible, yes, I've got evidence against 20 more, yes, but I will select two or three."
The violence erupted after the opposition and the president's party both claimed victory in a December 2007 poll. The ICC's formal investigation began in March 2009.
The Rift Valley was the epicentre of the bloodletting and essentially pitted Kalenjin supporters of now Prime Minister Raila Odinga against Kikuyu backers of incumbent President Mwai Kibaki, who was eventually declared the winner.
Bringing those most responsible for the violence to justice quickly is seen by many Kenyans and crisis mediator Kofi Annan as key to avoiding a repeat at the next elections due in 2012 in east Africa's biggest economy. Foreign donors and local markets are also closely watching the issue.
"If we are not doing justice in this case there will be chaos and more chaos and more violence," Moreno-Ocampo said.
A major fear among Kenyans is that if senior figures from only one side were targeted there would be more violence when the ICC names its chief suspects later this year.
BOTH SIDES RESPONSIBLE
But the prosecutor said both sides were in his sights. The security forces were responsible for hundreds of extrajudicial killings and Moreno-Ocampo said some of their crimes were committed as part of those by one of the political factions.
"We found that some of the allegations against the police form a pattern that could be connected with one of the cases," he said. "We can associate some of the police activities with some of the organisations who committed the crimes."
He would not say whether Kibaki and Odinga, who are now the leaders of the fragile coalition formed after the violence, could or could not be considered suspects. He said he did not know yet who would be charged.
"We will select the worst incidents, we will try to follow who committed them and we will decide according to the evidence who the parties will be," he said.
Moreno-Ocampo said it was not his responsibility to try and avoid further political upheaval and that elections would dictate political responsibility.
"I am following the evidence. I present criminal investigations, not political analysis," he said. "My only job is to end impunity for past crimes and prevent future crimes."
Moreno-Ocampo's most high-profile target so far is Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, who has been charged by the ICC on seven counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Darfur conflict.
The arrest warrant for Bashir by the ICC, set up in 2002 as the world's first permanent war crimes tribunal, was the first ever issued for a sitting head of state.
The prosecutor said the fact Bashir was re-elected in March changed nothing, saying Adolf Hitler would no doubt have won if a poll had been held in Germany in 1942. But he said it might now take longer to bring Bashir to justice.
"Normally, heads of state are arrested after they are demoted," he said. "I hope he is demoted tomorrow."
(Editing by Reed Stevenson)