The International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor has asked judges to indefinitely postpone the start of Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta’s crimes against humanity trial, saying Nairobi was refusing to co-operate.
“The prosecution respectfully submits that the appropriate course of action is to further adjourn the case until such time the government of Kenya executes the [prosecution’s] revised request in full,” prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said in papers filed before the Hague-based court on Friday.
The trial of the Kenyan leader on five counts related to post-election violence dating back to 2007-2008 has been dogged by repeated delays.
Most recently, judges in March postponed its start until October 7 in order to give Nairobi a chance to look for financial documents, in an apparent final push by prosecutors to form a case against the powerful African leader.
Prosecutors hope the documents – among them company records, bank statements, records of land transfers, tax returns, phone records and foreign exchange records – will prove a link between Kenyatta and the deadly unrest in 2007-08 in which 1,200 died and 600,000 others were displaced.
The collapse of the case is a severe blow for the Hague-based court, the first permanent war crimes tribunal, which was set up 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,” the ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said in a filing, asking judges to adjourn the case indefinitely.
But Bensouda stressed that prosecutors were not dropping the five counts against him, ranging from murder and rape to deportation and persecution following the vote in Kenya, saying that would be “inappropriate”.
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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, 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.
The case against Kenyatta 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.
African leaders frequently complain that the ICC discriminates against their continent.