Election Thieves Face Jail in the Hague - Ocampo
Emmanuel Gyezaho, 28 May 2010
Kampala — The International Criminal Court will prosecute politicians who rig elections and those who use the power of incumbency to fraudulently stay in power, a top prosecutor of The Hague-based court has warned.
Mr Louis Moreno Ocampo told politicians drawn from across the globe who are attending a curtain-raiser conference ahead of Monday's crunch ICC review meeting in Kampala that election violence would open the door to a prison cell for those found culpable of fanning atrocities against humanity.
"If they [politicians] have to commit crimes to get into office," said Mr Ocampo, "They will get to the Hague. That is the message."
The ICC top-man said rigging elections is often the root cause of violent conflicts and the ensuing commission of atrocities against innocent civilians in the contest for political power, a matter for which the court is moving to deal with.
He said the court was drawing from experiences in Kenya and Zimbabwe where the contest of election results in November 2007 and March 2008 respectively, led to violent clashes and unlawful killings.
"What happened in Kenya and Zimbabwe should not happen again. People should understand that elections have to be respected," said Mr Ocampo. "Politicians should know that if you commit those crimes, you get a ticket to The Hague and not a ticket to Cabinet."
The ICC is investigating who should be held to account for the violence which wracked Kenya after the last national elections.The court is currently investigating the role of politicians in Kenya's post-election chaos which claimed more than 1,000 lives.
Mr Ocampo separately told reporters that he would conclude investigations by the end of the year and submit a report detailing which individuals should be prosecuted.
Kenyan MP Musa Sirma said until the court installs structures to prosecute "riggers of elections, we don't think this issue of atrocities against humanity will end."
"It is the battle of leadership that brings about greed and mayhem," Mr Sirma said.
Mr Ocampo, however, said the court is keeping a watchful eye on more than a dozen elections across the African continent expected to take place in 2011 alone.
Ugandans go to the polls next year in a crunch general election where President Museveni is expected to run for a forth term in office amid accusations from the opposition of an uneven level playing field.
Delegates at yesterday's discussions conducted in Parliament's conference hall found moment to field questions to Mr Ocampo, the highlight of which hinged on the court's failure to effect arrest warrants for wanted criminals and the status of indictments hovering over Sudan leader Omar el-Bashir following his re-election.
In his response, Mr Ocampo said he was "optimistic" that President Bashir would be apprehended.
"He is still trying to escape from us but his destiny is clear," said Mr Ocampo. "He will face justice."
The ICC is an independent, permanent court that investigates and prosecutes persons accused of crimes against humanity and war crimes.