International criminal court (ICC) abandons case against Kenya’s VP William Ruto; Proseuctor claims witness intimidation & political interference

7 Apr

Editor’s Note:

    This may be a jubilee moment for the Jubilee Alliance of the ruling party in Kenya on account of the case against Mr. William Ruto being vacated from the Trial Chamber. Nonetheless, the fact that the charges against the vice president have hardly been dropped; nor has he been exonerated from the crimes. Much like the Kenyan President, another ICC-indictee for alleged crimes against humanity, the ICC Trial Chamber V (A) only “terminated the case without prejudice to re-prosecution.”

    In fact, Presiding Judge Chile Eboe-Osuji “declared a mistrial in the case, because it cannot be discounted that the weaknesses in the Prosecution case might be explained by the demonstrated incidence of tainting of the trial process by way of witness interference and political meddling that was reasonably likely to intimidate witnesses. In his opinion, Judge Eboe-Osuji also discussed several matters including reparations, immunities and elements of the “crimes against humanity” definition.”

    Similarly, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court Fatou Bensouda explained the reasons why the case collapsed in the following words:

      “The Chamber made it clear that their decision is without prejudice to the presumption of innocence or the Prosecution bringing the case on the basis of the same charges in the future, or in a different form, in light of new evidence.

      We regret that due to deliberate and concerted efforts to derail this case through witness interference, the Judges have been prevented from determining the guilt or innocence of the Accused on the full merits of the case. What is also troubling is that the onslaught against this case has – for now – denied the victims of the 2007-2008 election violence in Kenya the justice they so rightly deserve.

      We are currently in the process of carefully assessing the Trial Chamber’s decision to determine the appropriate next steps.

      The fact is that Prosecutions before the ICC can stand or fall on the willingness of witnesses to come forward and tell their story in the courtroom.

      In this case, 17 witnesses who had agreed to testify against the Accused subsequently withdrew their cooperation with the Court.

      Prosecution witnesses in this case were subjected to intimidation, social isolation and threats to prevent them from testifying. In the end, the Trial Chamber was in effect prevented from having the opportunity to assess the true merits of the Prosecution case.

      It has been a difficult journey since the Office of the Prosecutor opened its investigation of the 2007-2008 election violence in Kenya in March 2010. Our one, consistent objective has always been to secure independent and impartial justice for the many victims of that violence.”

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Posted by The Ethiopia Observatory (TEO)
by Owen Bowcott, The Guardian

Kenya’s deputy president had faced charges over violence following 2007 election that saw 1,300 people killed

The International criminal court has abandoned its prosecution of Kenya’s deputy president, William Ruto, who had been accused of orchestrating the post-electoral violence in 2007 that killed more than 1,300 people.

The controversial proceedings were declared by the court’s presiding judge, Chile Eboe-Osuji, to be a mistrial due to a “troubling incidence of witness interference and intolerable political meddling”.

The Hague-based tribunal also dropped identical charges of crimes against humanity – involving murder, persecution and forcible transfer of populations – that had been brought against the Kenyan broadcaster Joshua Sang.

The rulings reflect the frustration of senior lawyers in obtaining reliable evidence against high-ranking officials accused of committing atrocities.

Eighteen months ago the ICC’s chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, was forced to drop charges against Kenya’s president, Uhuru Kenyatta, over the same flare-up of political violence, citing problems with witnesses who had been harassed and intimidated. At the time she declared it was “a dark day for international criminal justice”.

The majority decision, by two judges to one, to terminate the case against Ruto, 49, and Sang, 40, left open the possibility that the prosecution could be revived at a future date. It may yet be subject to appeal. Lawyers for the two Kenyans had argued that there was no case to answer.

Judge Robert Fremr found there was insufficient evidence to proceed. Judge Eboe-Osuji said it was possible weaknesses in the prosecution case might be due to witness interference and political meddling aimed at intimidating witnesses. In a dissenting opinion, Judge Olga Herrera Carbuccia said the prosecution case had not broken down and there was sufficient evidence to continue with the case.

The trial had lasted for 157 trial days, with the court hearing testimony from 30 prosecution witnesses. Some prosecution evidence, which had subsequently been retracted, was deemed to be inadmissible.

ICC prosecutors originally charged six Kenyans with crimes linked to the post-election violence. Charges have now been dropped against all six.

The latest decision is a further steback for ICC prosecutors and provoked dismay among vicitms’ families in Kenya. “There is no doubt that this will come as a disappointment for victims,” Wilfred Nderitu, the lawyer representing the victims, told reporters in Nairobi. “It is my hope that there will be an appeal by the prosecutor.”

Around 600,000 people were left homeless following the worst outbreak of communal violence since the East African nation’s independence from Britain in 1963.

In Kenya’s Rift Valley, where much of the violence occurred, there were celebrations as residents took to the streets of Eldoret waving placards reading “Free At Last”, “No Case To Answer” and “The Power of Prayer”. “This is confirmation of what the power of prayers can do,” said Jackson Mandago, the governor of Eldoret and an ally of Ruto.

Zephania Mwangi, whose grandfather was hacked to death by an angry mob in a Kenyan slum that saw outbreaks of violence after the 2007 vote, said the court should consider the victims. “If someone lost property or someone, they should be compensated at least so that they can get their life back to normal,” he said shortly before the decision was announced.

Violence erupted in Kenya in late 2007 after the Kenyan opposition chief Raila Odinga, who is from the Luo ethnic group, accused the then-president, Mwai Kibaki, a Kikuyu, of rigging the elections.

What began as political riots was rapidly transformed into ethnic killings of the Kikuyu people, who in turn launched reprisal attacks. Ruto had been accused of holding meetings of his Kalenjin tribe in the Rift Valley to plan attacks on Kenyatta’s Kikuyu tribe.

Elizabeth Evenson, senior international justice counsel at Human Rights Watch, said that Kenya’s failure to prosecute perpetrators “leaves victims bereft of justice and the help they need”.

In pointed comments about the difficulties the court faced, Judge Eboe-Osuji observed in his judgment: “There is concern that the requirement of proof of aggregate complicity for purposes of crimes against humanity … may result in miscarriages in the administration of justice in this court.

“A case may collapse, regardless of the fact of widespread or systematic attack against a civilian population and regardless of the complicity of the accused in the attack. Victims will be fairly heard to complain of injustice with justifiable feelings in terms that may make calling the law ‘a[n] ass’ seem wholly charitable…”
 

Related:

    Ruto and Sang case: ICC Trial Chamber V(A) terminates the case without prejudice to re-prosecution in future

    Statement of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Fatou Bensouda, regarding Trial Chamber’s decision to vacate charges against Messrs William Samoei Ruto and Joshua Arap Sang without prejudice to their prosecution in the future

 

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