ICC judges throw out charges against Kenya's Ruto

International Criminal Court Judges announce mistrial in Kenyan Deputy President William Ruto’s case, throwing out charges he faced over post-election violence, which left some 1,300 people dead

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

This file photo taken on September 10, 2013 shows Kenya's Deputy President William Ruto (R) reacting as he sits in the courtroom before the trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague

International Criminal Court Judges announced a mistrial in Kenyan Deputy President William Ruto’s case, throwing out the charges he faced over post-election violence because political interference made a fair trial impossible.

"The proceedings are declared a mistrial due to a troubling incidence of witness interference and intolerable political meddling," judges said on Tuesday.

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

Ruto, 49, and Sang, 40, have both denied all three charges of crimes against humanity -- namely murder, forcible deportation and persecution, arising out of Kenya's disputed elections in late December 2007 and their violent aftermath in early 2008.

According to prosecutors, more than 1,300 people died and some 600,000 others were left homeless in Kenya's worst wave of violence since its independence from Britain, in 1963.

Several African nations have threatened to walk out of the court which was set up in 2002 to try 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.

The prosecution closed its arguments in Ruto's main trial in September 2015, and the defence has yet to start.

Instead, Ruto's defence team filed an unusual separate motion calling for the charges to be dismissed, arguing the ICC prosecutors had failed to prove his role in the convulsion of post-polls violence.

Sang's team has also maintained in their motion filed in 2015 that there is "no case to answer."

Defence lawyers told the court in January that the case was "in tatters."

'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.

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.

Several witnesses have changed their stories or refused to testify, which the prosecutors have alleged is due to intimidation and bribery or fear of reprisals. And the prosecution had maintained that the recanted testimonies were key evidence in their case.

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.

TRTWorld and agencies