ICC prosecutor says 'relentless intimidation' sunk Kenya case
The International Criminal Court's chief prosecutor Wednesday blamed a "relentless" campaign of witness intimidation as the reason behind a decision to drop the case against Kenyan Deputy President William Ruto.
War crimes judges at the Hague-based ICC on Tuesday ordered that all the crimes against humanity charges be "vacated" against Ruto and his co-accused, radio journalist Joshua Sang.
This means no-one has been successfully prosecuted by the court for the bloodshed which claimed hundreds of lives after disputed 2007 Kenyan elections.
"There was a relentless campaign to identify individuals who could serve as prosecution witnesses in this case and ensure they would not testify," Bensouda said in her first full statement on the issue.
"As a result, potential witnesses told us they were too afraid to commit testifying against the accused."
"Others, who initially gave us accounts of what they saw during the post-election period, subsequently recanted their evidence and declined to cooperate with the court," Bensouda said.
Ruto, 49, and Sang, 40, had both denied three counts of crimes against humanity -- namely murder, forcible deportation and persecution committed during the violence in 2007 and early 2008 in which prosecutors say some 1,300 people were killed.
The bloodshed in the east African nation was the worst since independence from Britain in 1963 and shook its image as a regional beacon of stability.
Even before the ICC authorised a probe in 2010 to investigate the violence there was a concerted campaign to intimidate witnesses which "intensified in the weeks leading up to the trial and continued throughout the life of the case," Bensouda said.
She also accused Nairobi of not fully cooperating with the investigation, a charge which Kenya denies.
"Despite repeated assurances of cooperation with the court the government of Kenya provided only selective assistance to the prosecution," Bensouda said.
She again called on Nairobi to hand over three suspects accused of seeking to bribe witnesses in the case.
Ultimately, it was the victims of the violence that would suffer the most, she said.
"The hurdles we encountered in our efforts to investigate and prosecute have frustrated the course of justice for the victims in this case and this must be a matter of profound regret," Bensouda said.
© 2016 AFP