INTERNATIONAL prosecutors said on Tuesday they still had enough evidence to prove charges against Kenyan Deputy President William Ruto over post-election violence even though half a dozen witnesses have withdrawn their testimony.
Ruto and his co-accused, broadcaster Joshua arap Sang, stand accused of stoking ethnic tensions to unleash an orgy of violence that drove their political opponents from their homes after a 2007 presidential election.
Lawyers for the two men want judges to throw out the charges of crimes against humanity brought against them, saying the loss of the six witnesses who withdrew their testimony had fundamentally undermined the case.
The case is seen as a test of the effectiveness of the International Criminal Court which, since being set up 13 years ago to end impunity for the gravest international crimes, has handed down just two convictions and struggled to put powerful leaders on trial.
Asked by presiding judge Chile Eboe-Osuji whether the remaining evidence was sufficient to secure a conviction,prosecution lawyer Anton Steynberg said: “Your honour, my submission is: yes, it is.”
Steynberg said he would focus not on the “credibility,reliability and cogency” of the evidence but on the volume of available material.
The lawyer said he had evidence of fighters being transported between settlements in Kenya’s Rift Valley region to take part in fighting, and he read aloud from statements of witnesses who claimed to have witnessed the discussions of”elders” who had coordinated violence. “The elders were talking politics, how the results (of the elections) were rigged,” he said, reading from a witness statement describing how they monitored attacks by ethnic Kalenjin fighters that drove ethnic Kikuyus away.
Steynberg cited satellite images of alleged arson attacks in the town of Eldoret, which hit a high on January 1, 2008, at the peak of the unrest in which 1 200 people were killed.
Ruto’s high-powered legal team, headed by London barrister Karim Khan, scored a victory on Tuesday, persuading judges to allow evidence to be heard in public over the objections of prosecutors who worried it could endanger remaining witnesses.
“We oppose the prosecution proposal that the public not be able to hear the quality of the evidence,” Khan said.
His team will seek to persuade judges later this week that there is no case to answer.