A group of 20 victims of post-election violence that rocked Kenya almost six years ago have withdrawn from the International Criminal Court case against Vice President William Ruto, the court says.
Citing its own judges, the Hague-based court said on Thursday that the group told their lawyer “that they no longer wish to continue participating in the present proceedings”.
The judges added: “The decision to withdraw could have been motivated by a range of factors including security concerns.”
The court’s confirmation comes after it received a letter in early June by 93 victims who allegedly said they wanted to stop participation in the two Kenyan cases before the ICC.
Ruto and Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta are both charged with crimes against humanity in connection with 2007-8 post-poll violence that left over 1,000 people dead and several hundred thousand displaced.
Ruto went on trial in September, becoming the highest-ranking serving official to do so before the ICC.
Kenyatta’s trial was due to start on Tuesday, but has now been postponed to February.
Ruto, 46, and Kenyan radio boss Joshua arap Sang, 38, stand accused of stoking the worst violence in the east African country since independence in 1963.
The ICC, the world’s first independent court set up to try the worst crimes, allows victims to take part in trials independent from the prosecution or the defence.
The victims’ withdrawal came as a new poll found that a majority of Kenyans want the ICC to try their president for alleged crimes against humanity.
The poll, released on Thursday, found that 67 percent of 2,060 Kenyans surveyed think Kenyatta should attend his trial at the ICC.
Kenyatta has successfully rallied leaders across Africa to denounce the ICC as an institution that unfairly targets Africans.
Last month the continental body, the African Union, said the ICC should delay Kenyatta’s trial, in part because Kenya faces increased security challenges after September’s siege on Nairobi’s Westgate Mall that killed 67 people.
A draft resolution before the UN Security Council requests ICC “to defer the investigation and prosecution” of Kenyatta and Ruto for 12 months.
China’s UN Ambassador Liu Jieyi, the current Security Council president whose country supports the resolution, said that barring last-minute changes there will be a vote on Friday.
Diplomats say the draft resolution appears doomed, with only seven of the 15 council members known to be supporting it. It would need nine votes to pass, and even then it could be vetoed by strong ICC supporters Britain or France.