Trial starts for Kenya deputy leader Ruto over '07 poll violence
By Mike Corder, APTHE HAGUE--Kenya's Deputy President William Ruto went on trial Tuesday at the International Criminal Court for allegedly orchestrating deadly violence after his country's disputed 2007 election.
September 11, 2013, 12:11 am TWN
The trial is a critical test for the ICC to demonstrate it can successfully prosecute an African leader. In November, Kenya's president, Uhuru Kenyatta, will be tried on similar charges, meaning two top politicians from a nation seen as one of East Africa's most stable democracies will be fighting charges in The Hague.
The court also has Ivory Coast's former president Laurent Gbagbo in custody, charged with postelection violence, and has indicted Sudanese leader Omar al-Basir for genocide in Darfur.
While ousted leaders like Yugoslav strongman Slobodan Milosevic and former Liberian President Charles Taylor have faced international justice in the past, it is unprecedented for two such high-ranking suspects as Ruto and Kenyatta to stand trial at an international tribunal while still in office.
Ruto smiled confidently as blinds were raised between the courtroom and public gallery before Presiding Judge Chile Eboe-Osuji outlined the proceedings.
Ruto and broadcaster Joshua Sang are both accused of murder, deportation and persecution of political opponents in Kenya's Rift Valley region in late 2007 and early 2008. Both men pleaded not guilty to all the charges.
Prosecutors have complained of widespread witness intimidation prior into the trial and some witnesses have refused to testify, throwing the strength of the case into question. The start of the trial was twice delayed to give defense attorneys more time to prepare.
Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda told judges the intimidation of witnesses was so damaging it was “something of an achievement” that she was able to bring the case to trial.
Kenya's Deputy President William Ruto awaits the start of his trial in the courtroom of the International Criminal Court in The Hague on Tuesday, Sept. 10.