The decision by the International Criminal Court (ICC) to “terminate” charges against deputy president William Ruto and journalist Arap San’g did not come as a surprise to majority of Kenyans as the case had all indications that it was collapsing, it was just a matter of when.
The ICC judges decided by majority vote yesterday that Ruto and Sang have “No Case to Answer” as there was no sufficient evidence to sustain the case.
“On the basis of the evidence and arguments submitted to the chamber, Presiding Judge Chile Eboe-Osuji and Judge Robert Fremr, as the majority, agreed that the charges are to be vacated and the accused are to be discharged,” a statement from the ICC said.
According to Judge Fremr, the case should be classed as a mistrial because “the weaknesses in the prosecution case might be explained by the tainting of the trial process by way of witness interference and political meddling that was reasonably likely to intimidate witnesses”.
Although the prosecution is allowed to appeal against the decision, which will not prevent a new prosecution in the future if more evidence emerges, the landmark ruling has dashed any hope of getting justice for victims of the 2007-08 post-election violence and it has also cast a dark shadow at the ICC not just in the eyes of Kenyans but in the region as well.
COURT OF LAST RESORT POWERLESS?
The ICC is known as “the court of last resort” and in a nation where the judicial system has failed in its mandate especially when it comes to prosecuting powerful individuals, Kenyans were hopeful that the ICC would rise to the occasion but the turn of events has made the Hague look just as powerless as any other African court.
“We have been looking up to the ICC and hoping that the victims were going to acquire justice after what they went through. This is a huge disappointment for us.” Said Nelly Warega, a human rights lawyer who represents some of the victims.
“If there’s #NoCaseToAnswer then the victims of PEV committed suicide” one Tim Njiru posed on Twitter.
Naff: If ICC will not prosecute anyone for more than 1k lives lost in PEV and thousands displaced, it has failed its mandate #NoCaseToAnswer
The prosecution decried numerously that witnesses had been bribed and intimidated and at some point also accused the Kenyan government of refusing to hand over documents that could have been used in evidence but critics have blamed the ICC of having bungled the process from the word go.
“ The process was “bungled” by the ICC, which did not do its own investigation, instead depending on evidence gathered by a third party,” Kenyan High Court advocate Saitabao Ole Kanchory as quoted by the BBC.
“The Kenya case has exposed the underbelly of the court…..”It is supposed to be this all powerful court set up by the powers of the world, but it has shown it is powerless,” he said.
“I guess witness inteference is the same as cancelling your pizza order or changing toppings midway. The ICC what a big joke #NoCaseToAnswer” tweeted Benji Ndolo
The ICC cases provided a unifying factor as far as political alliances ahead of the 2013 elections were concerned; where Uhuru Kenyatta teamed up with his one-time rival William Ruto to form the Jubilee Alliance party, a political outfit that gave the two an edge in the elections. They referred to the cases as a “personal problem” in their campaigns saying that it would not affect how they would run the country if elected.
They eventually won the election and Uhuru became the first sitting head of state to appear at the ICC in The Hague in 2014 but charges against him and three others were dropped later that same year.
The ICC ruling comes at a time when the country is gearing for a general election and although its impact on the country’s political arena cannot really be delineated because well, this is Kenya! But we can all expect it to be used once again to gain some political mileage by the jubilee government, which will be out to secure a second term for president Uhuru.
As far as the ICC goes, after 7 years of anxiety on how the cases would pan out, as Wahome Thuku said in an opinion piece published in today’s Standard Newspaper;
“The court has left the country almost at the very spot it found it more than a decade ago.”