Thursday, 28 April 2011

Letter from Nairobi

The blog has been silent for several days. I've been in Burundi, as part of the field visit of the Board of Trustees of the UN Voluntary for Technical Cooperation in the field of human rights, and couldn't get access to the blog from my hotel. Yesterday, we flew to Nairobi, and today we had a fascinating briefing about the human rights situation in Kenya.
Kenya may be the only country in the world where the International Criminal Court seems to dominate the headlines. The 'Ocampo Six' - that is, the six against whom summonses to appear before the Court have been issued - are referred to regularly, without the need for further explanation.
The most gratifying news is that the activity of the International Criminal Court appears to have a calming, deterrent effect on political extremists. There are markedly different tones when they speak in public. In particular, great caution seems to be exercised in the use of words that might constitute incitement.
The transformation took place in stages. Initially, the Court was mocked by its opponents, who suggested it would take many years for it to be operational. Then, when the summonses were issued in early March, there was more deference. And now that the accused have actually appeared and formally subjected themselves to the conditions imposed by the Pre-Trial Chamber, there seems to be a recognition that the Court has teeth.
This bodes well for Kenya, and for other parts of the world too.
The Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission seems to be finding its way too, after a rather grim beginning. There was much controversy about the President of the Commission, who was himself a suspect and whose behaviour may well be addressed by the Commission itself. But the Commission is now fully operational, and is holding hearings in different parts of the country.

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