The International Criminal Court has ruled that key testimony against Kenyan Deputy President William Ruto cannot be used as evidence. Ruto is accused of committing crimes against humanity during post-election unrest.
Appeals judges at the ICC ruled Friday that recanted statements against Kenyan Deputy President William Ruto were inadmissible. The decision is a blow to prosecutors trying to convict Ruto over his alleged involvement in violence following disputed elections in 2007.
Lawyers are now barred from using depositions recorded before the start of the trial by five witnesses because they have since changed their stories or refused to testify. Judges last year gave permission for recanted testimonies to serve as evidence against Ruto and his co-accused, radio broadcaster Joshua Sang, saying the witnesses had likely only backed out in the face of intimidation or bribes.
In a unanimous decision "the appeals chamber has decided to reverse the decision that... prior recorded testimony can be used," judge Piotr Hofmanski said on Friday.
He said the trial judges had committed "legal errors" by allowing the testimony in the first place, adding that the accused were at a disadvantage because they would not have an opportunity to cross-examine the witnesses.
More than 1,000 people died and half a million others were left homeless in the 2007 clashes, considered Kenya's worst wave of violence since independence from Britain in 1963.
Ruto, 49, and Sang, 40, have pleaded not guilty to three charges of crimes against humanity, including murder, forcible deportation and persecution. Ruto's lawyer, Karim Khan, welcomed Friday's decision, saying the prosecution had no evidence for the charges brought against Ruto.
"The case has been brought against the wrong person on the basis of absolutely flawed investigations," he told Associated Press.
Case 'on life support'
Attempts to prosecute the perpetrators behind Kenya's post-election unrest have proven difficult for the ICC. A similar case against Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta collapsed in December 2014, also following the loss of testimony and amid allegations of witness intimidation and bribery. The events constituted a major setback for the ICC.
Mark Kersten, a researcher with the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto, said Friday's development meant Ruto's case "is now on life support and may never recover."
"There is broad consensus that the case against Ruto is rather weak, with or without this ruling," Kersten told the AFP news agency.
nm/sms (Reuters, AP, AFP)