Voice of America (Washington, DC)

17 September 2013

Kenya: First Witness Called in Ruto ICC Trial

Photo: ICC
Kenya's Deputy President William Ruto and his defense team during his opening trial on crimes against humanity following the 2007-2008 post election violence.

Prosecutors at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague have begun calling witnesses in the trial of Kenyan Deputy President William Ruto, who is facing charges of crimes against humanity.

Ruto and radio executive Joshua Arap Sang are accused of helping to orchestrate deadly ethnic violence after Kenya's 2007 election. More than 1,100 people were killed in the unrest.

On Tuesday, a woman broke down and sobbed as she described a January 2008 mob attack on a church in Kenya's Rift Valley region. The woman said several thousand youths armed with machetes and sticks surrounded the church, where people had sought refuge from attacks. She said the youths set the church on fire with people trapped inside. Investigators say at least 28 people were killed in the incident.

The woman was present in the courtroom but her image and voice were distorted to guard her identity. Prosecutors say witnesses have been intimidated in the case, and several have dropped plans to testify.

Ruto and Sang have pleaded not guilty to charges of crimes against humanity.

At the trial's opening last week, ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said Ruto organized a campaign of armed attacks in the Rift Valley region as part of efforts to gain political power. She said the attacks targeted members of the Kikuyu ethnic group, who largely supported the Party of National Unity (PNU).

Ruto at the time belonged to the Orange Democratic Movement, which lost the disputed 2007 presidential vote to the PNU.

Prosecutors have accused Sang of broadcasting anti-Kikuyu rhetoric on a radio station and using coded messages to help coordinate attacks.

Ruto's case marks the first time the ICC has tried such a high-ranking official who is still serving in office.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta is also facing charges of orchestrating the post-election violence. His trial begins in November.

Many Kenyans object to the ICC trying their elected leaders, and Kenya's parliament recently voted to withdraw from the ICC. Despite that move, the court has said the trials will continue.

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InFocus

Deadline Looms For East Africa Over Hague Cases

Kenya's Deputy President William Ruto and his defense team during his opening trial on crimes against humanity following the 2007-2008 post election violence.

The deadline for the five east African nations supporting Deputy President William Ruto's bid to partially attend his International Criminal Court trial is looming. Read more »