The International Criminal Court has dropped the charges against one of the Kenyan leaders, Francis Muthaura, accused of orchestrating violence during the 2007 elections that left 1,000 people dead. The charges, crimes against humanity, have also been made by the ICC against newly elected Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta.
The ICC stressed that in dropping the charges against Muthaura, it was making no statement about the charges against Kenyatta, who was elected last week. Kenyatta’s lawyers are now asking that the charges against him be dropped as well.
Fatou Bensouda of the ICC said the charges against Muthaura, one of four leaders charged with crimes against humanity, were dropped because some witnesses were too scared to testify and another recanted his statement.
Muthaura was accused of five counts of crimes against humanity, including authorizing the police to use excessive force against protestors during the violence that killed 1,000 and left 600,000 homeless in 2007. Muthaura was on the same side as Kenyatta.
The charges against Kenyatta state that as hundreds of his fellow Kikuyus were being slaughtered, he organized a Nairobi street gang to exact revenge, helping to finance the Mungiki, who killed scores of people, including small children who were burned to death while huddling in their homes. Kenyatta has denied the charges and says he will clear his name.
Sources told the BBC that a key witness scheduled to testify in the ICC that Muthaura had been present at a meeting where the murderous plan was formulated, has admitted lying and taking bribes.
Bensouda stressed that her decision had no bearing on Kenyatta and was not affected by the election results.
“Let me be absolutely clear on one point – this decision applies only to Mr Muthaura,” she said in a statement. “It does not apply to any other case.”
She also pointed out the “disappointing fact” that the Kenyan government had failed to provide important evidence, and failed to facilitate access to witnesses.
“While we are all aware of political developments in Kenya, these have no influence, at all, on the decisions that I make,” Bensouda added.
“In light of what the prosecution has said … they should consider their position honestly in relation to Mr Kenyatta,” Kenyatta’s lawyer Steven Kay told the Associated Press. “The evidence they are seeking to rely on is utterly flawed.”
Kenyatta won the election with 50.07 percent of the vote, compared with 43.31 percent for Raila Odinga. But Odinga is challenging the result in court, claiming it was marred by irregularities.