Thursday, May 16, 2013

Kenya cases: Deputy President, and ICC suspect, Ruto reiterated his commitment to cooperate with the ICC

Deputy President Ruto arrives in the Netherlands for a status conference at The Hague this week.  Photo Credit: The Nation.

By Maryne Rondot

Speaking on Tuesday evening at a Status Conference at the ICC, Kenya's Deputy President William Ruto assured the judges that the he and President Kenyatta will cooperate with the Court as they had always done. This statement comes after the Kenyan government disowned a letter sent to the UN Security Council by Kenya’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations last Thursday. The letter did not ask the Security Council for a deferral, but for the “immediate termination of the case”. This is an impossible request since the Security Council has no power over an international organization, and thus cannot force the ICC to terminate a case, an act not provided in the Rome Statute.

These latest statements confirm that the three suspects from Kenya are not openly defying the ICC, an important point for our advocacy. However, Ruto argued that the ICC intervention had generated “two sets of victims”: “Post-election violence victims whose lives and property were destroyed and deserve justice and truth and another set of victims which I belong to. Victims of a syndicate of falsehood and a conspiracy of lies choreographed by networks against truth and justice.”  

The statements come amid a period of great confusion about the current state of the Kenyan cases. ICC Prosecutor Bensouda recently stated that her office continues to encounter considerable difficulties in securing full, effective, and meaningful cooperation from Kenya. The rate at which witnesses are withdrawing their statements against Kenyans suspects are worrying.  In fact, a key witness in the case against Ruto just withdrew this week. The witness originally told the OTP that he had attended meetings to plan violence at Ruto's home. In total, the prosecution has lost 13 witnesses so far in the cases against the three suspects: Ruto, President Uhuru Kenyatta and radio presenter Joshua Arap Sang. The ICC Prosecutor has recently accused the government of bribery and witness intimidation.

Witnesses are crucial in ICC cases since they are essential sources of evidence. The withdrawal of several witnesses in Francis Kirimi Muthaura’s case contributed to the Prosecutor dropping the charges against him on March, 11 2013.  The latest development at the Court, the acquittal of Mathieu Ngudjolo on December 18, 2012, made it clear that the Court will not convict any individual seemingly connected with a crime without adequate proof supported by evidence.

Protection of witnesses is therefore a key issue. Kenya and the ICC have a shared responsibility in the protection of witnesses. As a state party, Kenya has to ensure that witnesses are not intimidated. The ICC through the Victims and witnesses Unit has a mandate to provide protection, support and other appropriate assistance to witnesses and victims who appear before the Court.

The Prosecutor has postponed the trial of Sang and Ruto in order to enable their defense team to prepare. However, Kenyatta’s trial is still scheduled for July 9, 2013… More to come


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