Lawyers for Kenyan Deputy President William Ruto asked judges to throw out charges against him at the International Criminal Court on Thursday, saying witness withdrawals had left the prosecution’s case in tatters.
Ruto, present at the hearing in The Hague, faces crimes against humanity charges stemming from the ethnic violence that followed Kenya’s 2007 presidential election in which 1,200 people died.
The ICC has suffered a number of setbacks in its Kenya cases, the highest-profile dossiers on its docket. Prosecutors withdrew charges against President Uhuru Kenyatta last year, saying witness withdrawals had left them without a case.
Ruto’s lawyers argued the withdrawal of six prosecution witnesses left prosecutors making allegations unrelated to their assertion that he conspired to drive opposition supporters from their homes.
“The foundations of the case are gone,” Karim Khan said. “Every last one of them.”
Prosecutors no longer alleged that planning meetings took place at which financial, military and political backers coordinated attacks under Ruto’s leadership, he said.
“It makes a good story for an opening speech, but what’s happened to this network?” he asked.
Prosecutors argued earlier this week that there was still sufficient evidence to proceed with the case.
Acquittal would leave Ruto freer to campaign as Kenyatta’s running mate in the 2017 presidential elections, placing him in a strong position to run for the presidency in 2022.
Prosecutors have blamed their difficulties in the Kenya cases on widespread intimidation and bribery of their witnesses, especially since Kenyatta and Ruto won the 2014 election.
Set up 13 years ago to hold the powerful to account for the gravest international crimes, the ICC has handed down just two convictions at a total cost of more than a billion euros and has struggled to bring powerful office-holders to The Hague.
Judges have criticised prosecutors for relying excessively on easily-discredited witness testimony and neglecting circumstantial and forensic evidence.