ICC urged not to drop case against Kenya's Ruto

12th January 2016, Comments 0 comments

Prosecutors at the International Criminal Court on Tuesday sought to convince judges not to drop a crimes against humanity case against Kenya's Deputy President William Ruto for his role in deadly 2007-08 post-election violence.

The first-ever public hearing for the court at its shiny new permanent headquarters in The Hague opened with prosecutor Anton Steynberg telling a three-judge bench he had "the quantity of evidence" to convict Ruto.

Ruto, 49, and his co-accused, radio boss Joshua arap Sang, 40, face three crimes against humanity charges including murder, deportation and persecution for their role in the deadly violence that broke out after Kenyan elections in late 2007.

Prosecutors say more than 1,300 people died and some 600,000 others were left homeless in the worst unrest in the east African powerhouse since independence from Britain in 1963.

Violence broke out after opposition chief Raila Odinga accused then president Mwai Kibaki 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.

Youths "burnt vehicles, refusing to let people in" to the areas where the violence was centred, Steynberg told the judges.

"They were killing and looting," he said, particularly in Kenya's Rift Valley, which Steynberg called the "epicentre" of the violence.

Many of the deaths were not caused by gunshot, but by blunt instruments, bows-and-arrows or people who were set on fire, indicating "civilian-on-civilian violence, the prosecutor said.

He said he would give more details on Tuesday about Ruto and Sang's involvement in the violence.

Both Ruto and Sang reject the accusations and late last year their lawyers filed a request for the world's only permanent war crimes court to drop the charges as there was "no case to answer".

ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda in December 2014 dropped the case against Ruto's erstwhile bitter rival and now Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta who faced similar charges.

That announcement was the ICC's biggest setback since the court was established in 2002. It followed a long-running troubled case including allegations of witness intimidation, bribery and false testimony.

Kenya has fought an international campaign to put both cases on hold and has led African accusations of unfairly targeting the continent's leaders for prosecution.

© 2016 AFP

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