Wednesday, September 29, 2010

GoK finally backs down on "State Secrets"

A Cabinet committee on Tuesday dropped its opposition to allowing the International Criminal Court access to sensitive government documents in its investigations. The decision was reached during a three-hour meeting of the committee, which was formed to deal with the ICC. The world court is investigating the killings and other crimes committed during the lawlessness following the last election.

The meeting was also attended by a team from the ICC, which expressed concern at the high level revelations of its communications with government officials regarding the investigations, the sources, who attended the meeting, said.

The committee, chaired by Internal Security minister George Saitoti, however was categorical that it would vet all documents requested by the ICC team before handing them over. The committee agreed to ask Attorney General Amos Wako and the Kenya Police to hand over the requested information to the committee for them to choose the documents to hand over to the investigators, according to the sources, who asked not to be named because of the confidentiality of the meeting.

The meeting at Harambee House was called to discuss the level of cooperation the government was giving to the ICC and came amid revelations of a series of letters that The Hague had written asking for more information. The information is related to the meetings reported by the Waki Commission, and in particular one held at State House, and believed to have led to the killings in Naivasha and Kiambaa church in Eldoret. “The government agreed to fully cooperate with the ICC and will give them access to the documents they want. However, the (Cabinet) committee will decide which documents to hand over,” said a source at the meeting.

The two sides of the Grand Coalition Government, it has emerged, were divided over the level of cooperation with the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) demanding full access to all information requested by The Hague. The Party of National Unity (PNU), however, was hesitant to submit reports of high level security meetings that were held at the height of investigations on grounds that they were State secrets. Sources at the meeting said the ODM team, comprising Cabinet ministers James Orengo, Otieno Kajwang’ and Amason Kingi, pushed for the full cooperation. They also reminded their colleagues of the recent agreement they signed with the ICC allowing it to establish offices in Nairobi to expedite its work.

PNU ministers Saitoti and Moses Wetang’ula, however, argued that even though the government had agreed to cooperate with the ICC, it was in the interest of Kenya to safeguard confidential State secrets such as high-level security meetings, according to the source. Justice, National Cohesion and Constitutional Affairs minister Mutula Kilonzo reportedly argued that since the government had agreed to work with the ICC, it was obliged to provide information. He was also reported by the sources to have added that it should not be taken that giving access to the minutes of such meetings would amount to the government incriminating itself.

The ICC has written two letters to the government seeking access to minutes of the security meetings and another session that was said to have been held at State House immediately after the outbreak of the violence.

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