ICC to rule on bid to throw out Kenya Ruto case

5th April 2016, Comments 0 comments

Deputy Kenyan President William Ruto will learn Tuesday if war crimes judges will set legal precedent and throw out a case against him for his alleged role in post-election turmoil.

The judges at the International Criminal Court (ICC) were to file a written decision before 1500 GMT to a plea from Ruto and his co-accused radio boss Joshua arap Sang to dismiss the charges arising out of the violence sparked by disputed December 2007 polls.

Ruto, 49, and Sang, 40, both deny three charges of crimes against humanity -- namely murder, forcible deportation and persecution.

Prosecutors say more than 1,300 people died and some 600,000 others were left homeless in Kenya's worst wave of violence since independence from Britain in 1963, and concluded their case in September 2015.

But in a first before the ICC, Ruto's defence team filed a motion calling for the charges to be dismissed, arguing prosecutors had failed to prove he was involved in the post-polls violence.

Sang's team has also maintained that there is "no case to answer."

"It's very difficult to evaluate the possible scenarios, because there are different legal possibilities," ICC spokesman Fadi El Abdallah told AFP.

He said the judges had various options. Among other possibilities, they could dismiss the plea, acquit Ruto, or call for the case to be suspended while the charges are amended or for some other reason.

The case is being keenly watched in Kenya, which has led a high-profile campaign against the ICC among African nations, accusing the tribunal of bias against the continent.

Several African nations have threatened to walk out of the court, set up in 2002 to try to the world's worst crimes.

The Kenyan government has long argued the charges should be dismissed following a similar case against Ruto's erstwhile bitter rival and now Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta.

In a major setback for the ICC, prosecutor Fatou Bensouda abandoned the case against Kenyatta in late 2014.

- 'Witness intimidation' -

Ruto's lawyers have argued there was no proof he was behind the bloodshed that rocked the powerful east African nation once seen as a regional beacon of stability.

The case was "in tatters," the defence team maintained in January.

In an early victory for the two men, judges barred the prosecution in February from applying amended ICC rules and using recanted testimonies in their case.

Sixteen out of the 42 witnesses have changed their stories or refused point blank to testify, which the prosecutors have alleged is due to intimidation, bribery or fear of reprisals.

The prosecution had argued the recanted testimonies were key evidence to their case.

A decision on Tuesday to throw out the case would be a heavy blow for the ICC, especially after the charges were dropped against Kenyatta.

Whatever the outcome the decision "will create a precedent which will be upheld or not in any eventual appeal," said El Abdallah, confirming that both sides had the right to appeal.

Violence broke out in late 2007 after Kenyan opposition chief Raila Odinga from the Luo ethnic group accused then president Mwai Kibaki, a Kikuyu, of rigging his way to re-election.

What began as political riots quickly turned into ethnic killings of the Kikuyu people, who in turn launched reprisal attacks.

Ruto was accused of holding meetings of his Kalenjin tribe in his Rift Valley home to allegedly plan attacks on Kenyatta's Kikuyu tribe.


© 2016 AFP

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