William Ruto is Kenya’s Deputy President and is standing trial for charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity with a co-accused; journalist Joshua arap Sang. Over 1,000 Kenyans were killed in the violence that followed the disputed Kenyan presidential elections in 2007 and Mr. William Ruto is believed to have been instrumental. The two have pled not guilty to the charges.
The International Criminal Court was to determine if testimonies given by witnesses who later changed their accounts could still be included in the prosecutors evidence. The prosecutor had argued that they changed their mind due to threats, intimidation, bribery and fear of repraisals. The international judges in the case have however determined that the recanted testimonies will not be used.
This particular ruling overturns an earlier decision by the judges to allow five of the witnesses’ original statements to be included in the trial because they were convinced that the witnesses’ had been interfered with.
With the loss of the evidence of five key witnesses’ it is hard to view this for anything other than a massive blow to the prosecution and a celebratory moment for Mr. William Ruto. The impact of this blow is hard to decipher however without knowing what else the prosecution has up their sleeve, which we cannot speculate at because so many of the hearings for this case have been held in private sessions.
If the prosecution does not have much else to go by however, Mr. Ruto’s case may go the way of President Uhuru Kenyatta who had similar charges dropped against him in 2014, alleging that witnesses had been intimidated to make them change their testimonies. The fact that the ICC is already in the process of considering a motion of no case to answer from Mr. Ruto’s lawyers, an argument that was heard in January but could be affected by yesterday’s decision, doesn’t paint a happy picture for the prosecution.
Mr. Ruto’s co-accused, Joshua arap Sang who has reacted to the ICCs decision on social media, ascribed the decision of the judges as “one step to our freedom”. Mr. Sang is accused of using his radio show to organize attacks in the aftermath of the elections.