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Kenyan leaders to stand trial on human rights violations

By the CNN Wire Staff
January 23, 2012 -- Updated 1841 GMT (0241 HKT)
Kenya's Deputy Prime Minister, Uhuru Kenyatta, waves to supporters in Nairobi in April 2011.
Kenya's Deputy Prime Minister, Uhuru Kenyatta, waves to supporters in Nairobi in April 2011.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Kenya had earlier challenged the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court
  • The case involves men from opposite sides of Kenya's disputed presidential election
  • Ethnic violence after the election pitted supporters of the candidates against each other

Nairobi, Kenya (CNN) -- Four Kenyan officials, including Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta, will stand trial on human rights violations that are alleged to have occurred after the 2007 election, the International Criminal Court ruled Monday.

Kenyatta and Cabinet Secretary Francis Muthaura are accused of crimes against humanity. Former Agriculture Minister William Ruto and radio journalist Joshua Arap Sang face similar charges.

The court did not confirm charges against two other men -- opposition leader Henry Kosgey and and former national police chief Hussein Ali.

Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki said afterward that he was asking the attorney general to create a legal team to study the ruling and advise on a way forward. He also appealed for peace and calm.

The men named by the ICC come from opposite sides of Kenya's disputed presidential election, which pitted Kibaki, the incumbent, against Raila Odinga, the leader of the oppositon Movement for Democratic Change.

The two later entered into a power-sharing agreement, with Odinga named prime minister.

Post-election chaos escalated into ethnic violence with members of the president's tribe, the Kikuyu, fighting members of Odinga's Luo tribe and other groups.

More than 1,000 people were killed and 350,000 displaced, according to the Kenya Red Cross.

Ruto and Sang face four counts of crimes against humanity: murder, deportation or forcible transfer of the population, torture and persecution.

Their alleged crimes happened in the last two days of December 2007 and throughout January 2008, when hundreds died and thousands were displaced from four towns in western Kenya, in the Rift Valley.

The attacks were directed against particular groups, namely the Kikuyu, Kamba, and Kisii ethnic groups, because of their perceived political affiliation to Kibaki's Party of National Unity, the ICC said.

Ruto allegedly was an indirect co-perpetrator with others and Sang allegedly contributed to the comission of the crimes against humanity, the court said.

Responding to the ICC's announcement, Ruto said Monday he is confident his innocence will be proven, saying the allegations "have been, are, and forever will be strange to me."

Ruto also said he still plans to run for president.

"I am firmly in the race," he said. "And to my worthy competitors, let's meet at the ballot. And let the will of Kenyans prevail."

Muthaura and Kenyatta are accused of committing or contributing to killing, rape and other acts of violence against perceived supporters of the opposition. In particular, the attacks targeted members of the Luo, Luhya, and Kalenjin ethnic groups, the court said.

The court said it found "substantial grounds" to believe that Muthaura and Kenyatta were indirect co-perpetrators of the crimes, which took place in late January 2008, "having gained control over the Mungiki and directed them to commit the crimes."

The Mungiki is an outlawed sect made up of members of the Kikuyu tribe. It is also known as the Kenyan mafia.

Kenya had earlier challenged the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court, saying its own authorities would investigate and prosecute the cases on Kenyan soil.

The Netherlands-based court calls itself on its website "an independent international organization ... established to help end impunity for the perpetrators of the most serious crimes of concern to the international community."

CNN's Lillian Leposo contributed to this report.

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