The Heague, Netherlands – Kenya’s Deputy President William Ruto on Tuesday pleaded not guilty to crimes against humanity charges as the trial for his alleged role in Kenya’s post-election violence in 2007/2008 started at the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague, The Netherlands.
Former Kenyan radio host Joshua Arap Sang, 38, who is being tried along with Mr. Ruto, also pleaded not guilty to the charges, which include murder, deportation or forcible transfer of population and persecution.
Also due to be tried by the ICC, over the post-election violence that left about 1,300 dead and hundreds of thousands displaced from their homes, is Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta.
PANA reported that the trial is being held at the Trial Chamber V, presided over by Eboe Osuji.
In her opening statement, ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensousa said the prosecution intervened after Kenya failed to establish a local mechanism to deal with the violence.
She described Mr Ruto, 46, as a powerful politician, who used violence against civilians to fulfill his political ambitions, according to the transcript obtained by PANA.
Ms. Bensouda said the Rift Valley was most affected, and that men, women, children were burnt alive, hacked to death or chased from their homes, adding that most of these were ethnic Kikuyus.
The Prosecutor said the question posed in these proceedings is “Who is responsible for the violence?” She said Mr Ruto and Mr Sang bear the greatest responsibility.
”The prosecution will prove beyond reasonable doubt the crimes were not spontaneous but were planned and well executed. The campaign of violence was orchestrated by the Network led by its anointed leader, Mr Ruto. He gathered an army of loyal Kalenjin youth, hosted meetings, financed and directed attacks.
”Mr Ruto’s mouth piece was Mr Sang’s radio station. The latter spread anti-Kikuyu rhetoric and helped direct attacks using coded messages,” she said.
Karim Khan, lead lawyer to Mr. Ruto who was himself present in court, said the deputy president had waited for long to vindicate himself.
”Mr Ruto has bowed his head to this court with expectation that justice will be served,” Khan said, adding that one cannot escape the reality that this investigation was inefficient and accusing former ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo of targeting Ruto even before the judges had authorised an investigation.
Kenya, which signed the Rome Statute recognising the ICC’s authority in 2003, has begun the process of pulling out of the court, following disagreements over the trial.
Last week, Kenya’s parliament passed a motion that will enable the East African nation to withdraw as a state party to the ICC. Analysts said that process could take up to a year, and would not affect the trial.