Kenya’s Ruto hopes for Hague victory due to lost witness testimony


International judges rule on Friday on the admissibility of witness testimony against Kenyan Deputy President William Ruto, a decision that could trigger the collapse of another major case before the International Criminal Court.

If Ruto and his co-accused, broadcaster Joshua arap Sang, succeed in having witnesses’ withdrawn testimony struck from court records, it will probably deal a death blow to the court’s highest-profile case.

Prosecutors at the court, whose similar case against Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta collapsed last year, say six of their key witnesses were bribed or threatened into withdrawing their testimony.

Ruto’s lawyers argue that, without the testimony of those witnesses linking Ruto to the violence, in which 1,200 died in 2007-2008, the prosecutors’ case against him has “evaporated”.

The two defendants say that testimony recorded before the witnesses withdrew from the case is no longer admissible in evidence. They have the full backing of Kenya’s government, especially since Kenyatta and Ruto were elected on a joint ticket in 2013.

Acquittal would leave Ruto freer to campaign for a second term as deputy president next year, potentially giving him a clear run in 2022 for the presidency.

But it would also be a blow to the ICC. After 13 years and spending more than a billion euros, the court has convicted only two people, driving a wedge between its European funders and the African countries that make up the bulk of its 123 members.

Failure in the Kenyan case would be another sign that the court, set up to hold the most powerful to account, continues to struggle against politically influential defendants.

Severe tests lie ahead: the court has since added new and even more politically charged cases to its docket by opening investigations into conflicts between Israel and the Palestinians and between Russia and Georgia.