Election thieves face jail in The Hague – prosector

luis_morenoJOHANNESBURG -- 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 official of the court told political leaders Uganda last week. (Pictured: ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo (s

Ugandas Daily Monitor newspaper said Louis Moreno Ocampo, a prosecutor with The Hague-based court, told politicians drawn from across the globe who were attending a curtain-raiser conference 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. They will get to the Hague. That is the message, the paper quotes Ocampo as saying, in a message that will no doubt have worried the conference hosts as well as the governments of several other Africa countries where elections are often marred by violence, human rights abuses and allegations of fraud.

The ICC top-man said rigging elections was 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 was 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 Ocampo. Politicians should know that if you commit those crimes, you get a ticket to The Hague and not a ticket to Cabinet. The court is currently investigating the role of politicians in Kenyas post-election chaos which claimed more than 1,000 lives.? 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 dont think this issue of atrocities against humanity will end. it is the battle of leadership that brings about greed and mayhem. Ocampo, however, said the court was 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 Yoweri Museveni is expected to run for a forth term in office amid accusations from the opposition of an uneven level playing field.

President Robert Mugabe, whose supporters are accused of unleashing a wave of violence and murder to cow the electorate to support the veteran leader in a second round run-off election after he had lost the first round to then opposition Morgan Tsvangirai, has said Zimbabwe will go to the polls next year.

Tsvangirai later pulled out of the second round ballot citing state-sponsored attacks against his supporters and in the process leaving Mugabe to win as sole candidate. But the election was universally condemned, with African countries that had refrained from criticising Mugabe in the past also denouncing the violence-marred election a situation that forced Zimbabwean leader to open negotiations to share power with Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara, who heads a smaller opposition party.

Meanwhile delegates to the Kampala conference quizzed Ocampo on the ICCs 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, 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 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.

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