Prosecutors at international criminal court ask for case against leader to be adjourned indefinitely due to lack of evidence
The international criminal court case against the Kenyan president, Uhuru Kenyatta, collapsed after prosecutors admitted they lacked evidence, casting doubt on whether the decade-old court can hold the powerful to account.
In a court filing on Friday, the ICC’s chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, said Kenya had not handed over the bank and phone records the court was demanding, leaving it without a case before the scheduled October 7 start.
The case against Kenyatta, accused of stoking inter-ethnic violence in which 1,200 died after Kenya’s 2007 presidential elections, had been postponed several times as prosecutors tried to gather evidence.
The collapse of the case is a severe blow for the court, the first permanent war crimes tribunal, which was set up in The Hague with the aim of ensuring that people accused of the most serious international crimes face justice.
“The accused person in this case is the head of a government that has so far failed fully to comply with its obligations to the court,” Bensouda said in a filing, asking judges to adjourn the case indefinitely.
Judges could respond to the filing by throwing out the case, bringing the case against Kenyatta to an end.
But a prosecution lawyer told Reuters they hoped judges would agree to an unusual permanent adjournment, which would indicate the case had failed because Kenyan authorities had obstructed the investigation.
In Naivasha, just north of Nairobi, where some of the worst violence occurred, victims of the violence said the collapse of the case was a dark day.
“All our hope in getting justice after the 2007/08 chaos lay with the ICC but this has been crushed,” said Esther Auma, a worker at a flower farm who said she lost her elder brother during the violence.
Kenyatta, the son of his country’s founder, Jomo Kenyatta, was elected president in 2012. He immediately began rallying Kenya’s African Union allies in a diplomatic push to have the charges against him dropped, along with those against his deputy, William Ruto, who is already on trial on separate but similar charges.
But the case against Kenyatta also struggled in the courtroom, with prosecutors saying star witnesses had been intimidated into withdrawing their testimony against the president. Kenyatta’s lawyers rejected the allegations.
Kenyatta supporters said the failure of the case proved that the ICC’s charges had been politically motivated.
Prosecutors had asked for the phone and bank records in a last-ditch attempt to find evidence to shore up their case. They argued that if Kenyatta really had paid agitators to stir up violence, the transactions would show up in his bank accounts.
The report had no obvious effect on the value of Kenya’s national currency, the shilling, indicating the extent to which investors had already factored in the collapse of the case.
For the court, with a string of failed prosecutions behind it, the development raises questions over whether it will ever be able to hold to account the powerful, prosecuting alleged perpetrators behind the most serious crimes.
The court has handed down two guilty verdicts since being set up in 2003, against two little-known Congolese warlords, and one acquittal. Other targets, such as the Sudanese president, Omar al-Bashir, wanted for genocide, remain at large