International Criminal Court prosecutors said Monday they are dropping their crimes against humanity case against a prominent Kenyan because of a lack of evidence, a decision that also casts serious doubt on the prosecution of the country’s president-elect.
The decision to drop the case against Cabinet Secretary Francis Muthaura was an unprecedented admission of failure by prosecutors and the first time in the 10-year-old court’s history that they have dropped a case so close to trial.
It also threw into question the future of the case against president-elect, Uhuru Kenyatta, who is charged along with Muthaura as a “co-perpetrator.”
Kenyatta’s lawyer called on prosecutors to reconsider their case against him.
“In light of what the prosecution has said … they should consider their position honestly in relation to Mr. Kenyatta,” lawyer Steven Kay said. “The evidence they are seeking to rely on is utterly flawed.”
Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda told judges she is withdrawing all charges against Muthaura, who is charged along with Kenyatta with crimes including murder, rape and deportation for his alleged involvement in deadly violence that erupted after his country’s 2007 presidential election.
“We do not feel that we have a reasonable prospect of conviction and therefore withdraw the charges against him,” Bensouda told judges.
While Muthaura, 66, is indicted together with Kenyatta, prosecutors argue they have more evidence against Kenyatta and his prosecution should continue.
Muthaura, who was sitting in court, showed no emotion as Bensouda made her statement, but his attorney, Karim Khan, welcomed the announcement.
“It is absolutely justified and I do recognize that this is not only a courageous but a correct decision,” Khan said.
While Bensouda stressed that the case against Kenyatta would continue, judges did not appear so sure.
Presiding Judge Kuniko Ozaki said the announcement “will have consequences not just for the case against Mr. Muthaura, but also in some way Mr. Kenyatta.”
She asked defense lawyers to outline their reactions to the announcement in writing, but as she closed Monday’s hearing Ozaki added, “it is clear the case against Mr. Muthaura cannot continue.”
Bensouda said witnesses in the case against Muthaura had either “been killed or have died since those events and other witnesses refuse to…