The International Criminal Court (ICC) has terminated the case against Kenya’s deputy president William Ruto and ended his trial, saying there is insufficient evidence he was involved in deadly violence that erupted after his country’s 2007 presidential elections.
Tuesday’s 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.
Ruto, 49,and his co-accused radio boss Joshua arap, 40, have both denied three charges of crimes against humanity – namely murder, forcible deportation and persecution – arising from Kenya’s disputed elections in late December 2007 and their violent aftermath in early 2008.
Prosecutors say more than 1,300 people died and some 600,000 were left homeless in the country’s worst violence since independence from Britain in 1963.
The case has been carefully watched in Kenya, which has led a high-profile campaign against the ICC by several African nations who accuse the tribunal of bias against the continent.
Several African nations have threatened to walk out of the court, set up in 2002 to deal with the world’s worst crimes.
The Kenyan government has long argued that the charges should be dismissed after a similar case against Ruto’s erstwhile bitter rival and now Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta.
In a major setback for the ICC, prosecutor Fatou Bensouda abandoned the case against Kenyatta in late 2014.
The prosecution closed its arguments in Ruto’s main trial in September 2015, and the defence has yet to start.
Instead, Ruto’s defence team filed an unusual separate motion calling for the charges to be dismissed, arguing that the ICC prosecutors had failed to prove his role in the convulsion of post-polls violence.
Sang’s team have also maintained in their motion filed in 2015 that there is “no case to answer”.
A decision on Tuesday to throw out the case would be a heavy blow for the ICC, especially after the charges were dropped against Kenyatta.
It is unclear what the judges will decide in their written ruling late on Tuesday.
They could dismiss the charges, or rule in the prosecution’s favour.
But court officials told AFP news agency that both the prosecution and the defence would have the right to appeal.
Violence broke out in late 2007 after Kenyan opposition chief Raila Odinga, from the Luo ethnic group, accused then president Mwai Kibaki, a Kikuyu, of rigging his way to re-election.
Ruto was accused of holding meetings of his Kalenjin tribe in his Rift Valley home to allegedly plan attacks on Kenyatta’s Kikuyu tribe.