The trial is seen as a landmark case for both Kenya and the ICC, according to voanews.com.
At the opening of the trial Tuesday, the ICC’s presiding judge, Chile Eboe-Osuji, read the charges against the defendant.
“William Samoei Ruto, you have been charged, in count one, with murder constituting a crime against humanity under article 7 1a, and article 25 3a of the Rome statute. How do you plead, guilty or not guilty?”
Ruto pleaded not guilty.
A Racial Component
According to the Washington Post, dozens of Kenyan lawmakers were in The Hague to show their support for Ruto.
“We want to vindicate our leaders and our nation,” said lawmaker Aden Duale.
Kenya’s parliament last week passed a voice-vote motion to withdraw from the ICC.
The vote is symbolic and non-binding; only Kenya’s government can decide to withdraw from the court. The parliament’s move will have no effect on the trials of Ruto, or Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta, who were on opposite sides of Kenya’s political divide in 2007 but joined forces to win on a joint ticket this year. Kenyatta is due to go on trial before the ICC on similar charges in November.
Across Africa, opponents accuse the court of bias against the continent. In more than a decade of work, the court has only indicted Africans. It does not have jurisdiction to intervene in the Syrian conflict because Damascus has not joined the court.
The chairman of the African Union, Hailemariam Desalegn, earlier this year said ICC prosecutions “have degenerated into some kind of race hunt.”