The International Criminal Court has terminated the case against Kenya’s deputy president and ended his trial, saying there is insufficient evidence he was involved in deadly violence that erupted after his country’s 2007 presidential elections.
A mistrial was declared by the presiding judge who 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.
This decision does still leave the way open for a possible future prosecution – if the prosecutor can find sufficient evidence. The prosecution can appeal against the termination of the trial.
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 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.
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.
Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta said he is “delighted” by the International Criminal Court’s decision to terminate the cases of Deputy President William Ruto and broadcaster Joshua arap Sang.
In a statement he added: “This moment is long overdue but no less joyful. I join my brothers in celebrating their moment of justice.”
He also criticises the ICC process which he says pursued an “ill-conceived, defective agenda at the expense of accountability for the post-election violence”.