For Immediate Release
Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) denounced today’s decision by the International Criminal Court (ICC) to declare a mistrial in the case against Kenyan Deputy President William Samoei Ruto and journalist Joshua Arap Sang. The court – citing weak evidence in the prosecution’s case and “a troubling incidence of witness interference and intolerable political meddling” – vacated charges against Ruto and Sang for crimes against humanity, including murder, deportation or forcible transfer of populations, and persecution following Kenya’s contested 2007 elections.
“It is the absolute responsibility of the court to provide testifying witnesses the full measure of protection required to shield them from threats and intimidation,” said Karen Naimer, director of PHR’s Program on Sexual Violence in Conflict Zones. “That is foundational to a fair trial. If the prosecution’s case faltered, even in part, because of witness tampering, we must see it for what it is: a stinging indictment of the court itself.”
Ruto was charged with crimes related to an outburst of violence after the 2007 balloting that left 1,200 Kenyans dead and forced half a million people from their homes. In December 2014, the ICC withdrew charges against sitting Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, who served as deputy prime minister during the violence.
“This decision is incredibly frustrating to the thousands of victims and families in Kenya who have waited so long for a meaningful outcome,” said Christine Alai, Kenya Coordinator for PHR’s Program on Sexual Violence in Conflict Zones. “This was the only remaining criminal case addressing the post-election violence – against high level or low level officials – and this decision will send a chill to those victims and witnesses who would come forward to seek justice.”
PHR noted that the judgment does acknowledge the significant need to provide reparations and assistance to survivors of the violence. PHR hopes this development will drive momentum in Kenya to push for the adoption of Kenya’s Truth, Justice, and Reconciliation Commission’s recommendations on reparations.
“By no means should today’s mistrial be seen as a statement about Ruto or Sang’s guilt or innocence,” said PHR’s Alai. “Rather it is an unfortunate testament to the significant political interference in the case that have resulted in the court’s inability to consider the case on its actual merits.”
In the absence of any meaningful local accountability efforts, PHR has helped bring a civil suit against the Government of Kenya at the High Court in Nairobi on behalf of survivors over the government’s failure to prevent the post-election violence, protect civilians, or provide meaningful investigations and reparations. PHR also recently published a study on the post-election violence in Kenya that found a rise in rape cases during the post-election period.
Through the Program on Sexual Violence in Conflict Zones, PHR trains medical, law enforcement, and judicial officials in Kenya and the Democratic Republic of the Congo on collecting and preserving forensic medical evidence in sexual violence cases in order to improve local prosecutions.
Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is a New York-based advocacy organization that uses science and medicine to prevent mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. Learn more here.