7 June 2014

Kenya: Decision to Adjourn Ruto Trial Shows Case Is Weak

The trial of deputy president William Ruto and radio journalist Joshua Sang at The Hague was expected to resume a few days ago after a long Judicial recess which started in the eve of Easter holiday.

According to the schedule prepared by the trial chamber in consultation with office of prosecutor, the trial was expected to proceed for four weeks before the decision on whether to continue or take a break would be considered.

In keeping with the conditional excusal requirements, the Deputy President had travelled to The Hague to attend the first five days after the resumption of trial.

But two days after and in a move that caught the chamber and the defense by surprise, the prosecutor moved to file two urgent applications soon after the first witness concluded their testimony which was entirely heard in camera.

The prosecution counsel first sought to withdraw the second crucial witness number 0025 from testifying just a few minutes before the said person took to the witness box. In the second application, the prosecution applied to have the case adjourned to June this year.

As expected, the defense did not take issue of the withdrawal lightly and this came out clearly when Ruto's lead counsel Karim Khan moved to give his response.

He was opposed to the blanket withdrawal of the witness citing the reasons given by OTP as unsatisfactory and unconvincing.. The OTP listed this witness as an insider who had attended a series of preparatory meetings to ostensibly plan the post-election violence.

The witness had alleged these meetings were also attended by the deputy president, who at the time was a key ODM leader. Why would they drop such crucial witness yet it is on record they relied heavily on the testimony adduced by him to confirm the case against Ruto and Sang?

It was reported that during the confirmation of charges hearings, the testimony of this witness was referred 25 times and earlier 17 times to convince the chamber that the two had a case to answer.

Notably, the decision to withdrawal this witness was a big blow to the OTP because apart from the alleged crucial evidence held by him, it was reported the said witness was a link person who had helped to recruit five more prosecution witnesses and interestingly, all of them have since recanted their testimonies.

In light of the latest developments, it appears that Bensouda's case against Ruto and Sang is weak, wobbling and hence chances of success are dim.

So in coming days, one only hopes that the prosecutor will accept the bitter truth and terminate the trial. As a key observer of ICC process, I have all along stated that the prosecutor is not to blame in the event of the collapse of the Ruto's case and that of President Uhuru Kenyatta.

The former prosecutor Moreno Ocampo is the one to take all the blame. Many believed that he conducted shoddy investigations which were politically motivated by not only the Kenyan opposition political forces but also the leadership of the Western countries.

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