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ICC ends case against DP William Ruto and Joshua Sang after 7 years of anguish

By Wilfred Ayaga | April 6th 2016
Journalist Joshua arap Sang was in tears after receiving the news. (PHOTO: DPPS, ELVIS OGINA, PETER OCHIENG/STANDARD)

Seven years after they were committed to trial, Deputy President William Ruto and Joshua Sang are finally free.

Mr Ruto and Mr Sang walked free after the ICC trial chamber declared the case a ‘mistrial’ and ruled that the charges were to be vacated and the accused were to be discharged.

The court, in a majority decision by Judges Chile Eboe-Osuji and Robert Fremr, terminated the trial, saying the prosecutor failed to adduce enough evidence to prove the existence of a network or organisational policy, a key pillar of the prosecutor’s case.

Judge Olga Herrera Carbuccia gave a dissenting opinion arguing that the prosecution’s case had not ‘broken down’ and she concluded that there was sufficient evidence upon which, if accepted, a reasonable Trial Chamber could convict the accused.

But Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda’s case that Ruto and Sang were at the centre of an organisational policy that held meetings and directed violence in the Rift Valley in the aftermath of disputed 2007 General Election collapsed after the judges ruled that there was no evidence to support it.

“At the outset, it should be noted that the designation of the alleged organisation as the ‘Network’ appears to have been made by the prosecution, as there is no evidence on record that suggests that the alleged members of this ‘Network’ used this terminology to refer to themselves,” the judgement read.

“For example, besides Ruto’s position at the top of the hierarchy, it is not easily discernible from the prosecution’s submissions and evidence how authority or tasks were allegedly distributed among senior ‘Network’ members,” the judges said.

Deputy President William Ruto’s wife Rachel is mobbed by women after DP Ruto’s case at the ICC was thrown out yesterday.  (PHOTO: DPPS, ELVIS OGINA, PETER OCHIENG/STANDARD)

The trial chamber cited witness interference as among the reasons that had made the case to collapse. The court declined to declare ‘an acquittal’ instead arguing that the prosecutor had provided ‘ample’ evidence to prove that witnesses had been intimidated both directly and indirectly.

It, however, did not find any evidence that the accused had “instructed or encouraged anyone to engage in witness interference”.

In light of this finding, the trial chamber opened a window of possibility for the prosecutor to pursue the cases afresh in future.

“A verdict of acquittal is particularly unjustifiable in the circumstances, not only because it will vindicate the illicit objectives of the unseen hands that had engaged in witness interference, the obvious aim of which is to frustrate the trial of the accused; but it may also encourage future unseen hands to interfere with a criminal trial,” read the majority judgment.

Ruto vindicated

Ruto and Sang are the last of the ‘Ocampo Six’ to walk out of The Hague trial after cases against President Uhuru Kenyatta and five others collapsed at different stages. The two had been committed to trial on charges of murder, rape and forcible transfer of populations, which the court said could not be proved.

Yesterday, the Deputy President spent the afternoon at his Karen residence with over 30 MPs. Also present was President Kenyatta’s private secretary, Jomo Gecaga.

President Uhuru, in his congratulatory message, said that Ruto and Sang had been vindicated. “I am delighted that the Deputy President and Mr Joshua Sang’s innocence has been vindicated by a decision of no-case-to-answer at the ICC. This moment is long overdue but no less joyful. I join my brothers in celebrating their moment of justice,” said the President.

The president announced that a thanksgiving service will be held at Afraha Stadium in Nakuru on Saturday. Opposition leader Raila Odinga tweeted: “As ODM, we congratulate @WilliamsRuto following the ruling of the court. We now hope that the victims will receive long overdue justice in the form of reparations from Government.”

The court could not find evidence that Ruto and Sang were part of preparatory meetings to plan the evidence in which more than 1,700 people were killed. In the absence of evidence by Witnesses 397, 604 and 495, who recanted their evidence, the court could not reach the conclusion that such meetings had taken place.

The decision now brings to an end a winding process that followed the bloody events of the disputed 2007 presidential election that saw the country plunge into unprecedented chaos. Former ICC prosecutor Moreno Ocampo had promised to make Kenya an example to the world.

It also means that the county moves to the next General Election without the ICC baggage hanging over the Deputy President’s head, unless the prosecution appeals or brings back the case in future. In the last election, President Uhuru Kenyatta and his then running mate, Ruto, made the ICC matter a campaign issue. With the collapse of the case, observers will be closely watching to see what direction the country’s political scene takes. But the ruling raised questions on the fate of victims of the post-election violence, some of whom are yet to recover from the trauma of the bloody events. The victims’ lawyer, Wilfred Nderitu, asked the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions to launch a fresh investigation into the 2007-08 post-election violence.

“The Government should make good its pledge of assisting the victims. It is an idea whose time has come. The plight of victims should not be forgotten,” said Nderitu.

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Violence not best way to resolve disputes
It is unfortunate that the students chose to vent their anger and frustrations on innocent motorists and pedestrians in the vicinity of the university minding their own business.