By BASILLIOH MUTAHIPresident Uhuru Kenyatta. AFP FILE PHOTO | ANDREW COWIE
Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda has withdrawn the charges against Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta at the International Criminal Court.
“In light of the Trial Chamber’s 3 December 2014 “Decision on Prosecution’s application for a further adjournment”, the Prosecution withdraws the charges against Mr Kenyatta,” the prosecutor said in her application to the court on Friday.
She said the evidence had not improved to an extent that President Kenyatta’s alleged criminal responsibility could be proved beyond reasonable doubt.
Ms Bensouda, however, noted that the notice for withdrawal was subject to the possibility of bringing new charges at a later date in case the prosecution obtained sufficient evidence.
“This withdrawal is without prejudice to the possibility of bringing new charges against Mr Kenyatta at a later date, based on the same or similar factual circumstances, should [the Prosecution]obtain sufficient evidence to support such a course of action”.
President Kenyatta said he was “excited” over the Prosecution’s decision to withdraw the charges.
“I am excited by this news, which I have awaited ever since the day my name was announced to the world in connection with the case. I am also deeply relieved by this decision, which is overdue by 6 years,” the President said in a statement.
“President Kenyatta, “I am very keen to run to my wife @FirstLadyKenya right now and tell her what is happening” #Vindicated, the Presidential Strategic Communications Unit stated on its official account on Twitter, quoting President Kenyatta.
In his statement, President Kenyatta emphasised his position that the Kenyan cases at the ICC were rushed, “without proper investigation or preparation and sustained by a strong interest to stigmatise accused persons.”
The President also said victims of serious crimes had a right to expect the court to dispense justice without undue considerations”
On Wednesday, ICC judges directed the prosecution to either file a withdrawal notice within one week or provide justification, on the basis of evidence, for proceeding to trial.
The chamber noted that its decision to deny the request for another adjournment, based on the “practical terms and in the circumstances of this case” was likely to have the consequence of ending the proceedings.
The chamber said that, in rejecting the request, it considered the prosecution’s own admission that evidence remained insufficient to support a conviction.
The right of the accused to be tried without undue delay and the presumption of his innocence also informed the decision, the judges said.
They observed that the two Kenya cases at the ICC — one against Mr Kenyatta and the other facing Deputy President William Ruto and former broadcast journalist Joshua arap Sang — had taken five years.
Besides, by the prosecution’s admission, it remained speculative whether the information sought from the Kenyan government in the cooperation request would, even if obtained, be sufficient to support the charges.
Responding to the withdrawal, the lawyer for the victims, Fergal Gaynor, said their quest for justice had been frustrated by the decision.
“Today’s withdrawal of the charges against Uhuru Kenyatta will inevitably disappoint the estimated 20,000 victims of the crimes charged in this case.”
He accused the Kenya government of “mounting an enormous effort to derail the prosecutions, yet it had done almost nothing to hold perpetrators to take responsibility for the crimes committed.”
Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch said on Friday that the withdrawal of the charges “sets back efforts to end the country’s entrenched culture of impunity”.
“It’s clear that a long tradition of impunity in Kenya and pressure on witnesses have been serious obstacles to a fair process before the ICC.”
President Kenyatta faced charges at the ICC as an indirect co-perpetrator, with five counts of crimes against humanity consisting of murder, deportation or forcible transfer, rape, persecution and other inhumane acts allegedly committed during the post-election violence in Kenya in 2007-2008.
The charges were confirmed on January 23, 2012, and the case was committed to trial before Trial Chamber V(B).