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ICC trial against Kenyan Deputy President Ruto opens

Proceedings against Kenyan Deputy President William Ruto have opened at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague. Doubts have been raised about Kenya’s further cooperation with the ICC.

The 46-year old Ruto (right in photo) and the radio journalist Joshua Arap Sang stand accused of orchestrating crimes including murder and the forced displacement of people during ethnic violence that followed the disputed 2007 election in Kenya. Tuesday's agenda was to include opening statements from the prosecution and defense teams.

"This case will fall apart in the end," said Karim Khan, Ruto's lawyer. "But," he added, referring to accusations that the defense had intimidated witnesses, "it will fall apart because of lack of evidence because of the deficient investigations conducted, and not for any other reason."

Ruto and Sang face charges for crimes against humanity in the 2007-2008 violence post-election violence, which left at least 1,100 people dead and more than 600,000 homeless. President Uhuru Kenyatta also stands accused but will remain in Kenya ahead of his trial in November. Both leaders deny the charges brought against them in this first trial of crimes against humanity involving a sitting leader of government.

Victims of the violence will also have a chance to present their side.

ICC in controversy

The ICC - the world's only independent, permanent tribunal for genocide and crimes against humanity - took charge of the cases after Kenya failed to set up a tribunal of its own. Last week, Kenya's parliament passed a motion calling for the country to withdraw from the ICC.

Any move to reconsider the Rome Statute, the 1998 international agreement that created the court, would have no effect on the current trials, but observers fear it may spark an exodus of court member states in Africa. Anti-ICC sentiment has grown across Africa, which once voiced strong support for a global court to bring an end to impunity.

Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda has rejected claims of meddling in Kenya's politics on the court's side, saying that the cases relate purely to the 2007-2008 violence and those accused of it. "Contrary to what has now become a rallying call for those who do not wish to see justice for victims of post-election violence, our cases have never been against the people of Kenya or against any tribe in Kenya," Bensouda said Monday.

mkg/kms (Reuters, AFP, dpa)

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