THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — The International Criminal Court terminated the case against Kenya’s deputy president and ended his trial Tuesday Apr. 5, saying there is insufficient evidence he was involved in deadly violence that erupted after his country’s 2007 presidential elections.
The presiding judge said the reason for the lack of evidence was possibly “witness interference and political meddling.”
The announcement marks the second time the court has had to admit defeat in its attempts to prosecute alleged ringleaders of the violence that left more than 1,000 people dead and forced 600,000 from their homes in Kenya.
Deputy President William Ruto had been charged alongside broadcaster Joshua Sang with murder, deportation and persecution for their alleged leading roles in the violence. The case against Sang was also closed Tuesday.
A case against President Uhuru Kenyatta on similar charges collapsed in December 2014 amid prosecution claims of interference with witnesses and non-cooperation by authorities in Nairobi.
At the time, Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda blamed Kenya for blocking her investigations and called it “a dark day for international criminal justice.”
Three Kenyans have been charged with interfering with witnesses.
In Tuesday’s decision, two members of the three-judge panel ordered the charges against Ruto and Sang to be dropped, although they said charges could be brought again if there is sufficient evidence.
According to a court statement, Presiding Judge Chile Eboe-Osuji also declared a mistrial, saying that “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.”
Appeals judges ruled in February that statements made by five witnesses who later changed their stories or refused to testify against Ruto and Sang, could not be used as evidence, a decision that likely sped up the case’s collapse.
ICC prosecutors originally charged six Kenyans with crimes linked to the post-election violence. Charges have now been dropped against all six.
The claims of widespread witness interference underscore a major problem facing the court, which was set up to prosecute suspects considered most responsible for atrocities. That means sometimes going after senior politicians and having to rely on their police and security forces for cooperation.
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