Trial Starts for Kenya Deputy President Ruto

(THE HAGUE, Netherlands) — The trial of Kenya’s Deputy President William Ruto opened Tuesday at the International Criminal court, with the chief prosecutor saying Ruto deliberately orchestrated deadly violence in the aftermath of his country’s disputed 2007 election. The trial is a critical test for the ICC to demonstrate it can successfully prosecute an African leader. In November, Kenya’s president Uhuru Kenyatta will stand trial on similar charges, meaning two top politicians from a nation seen as one of East Africa’s most stable democracies will be fighting charges in The Hague. While ousted leaders like Slobodan Milosevic and Charles Taylor have faced international justice in the past, it is unprecedented for two such high-ranking suspects to stand trial at an international tribunal while still in office. Ruto smiled confidently as blinds were raised between the courtroom and public gallery before Presiding Judge Chile Eboe-Osuji outlined the background of the proceedings. Ruto and broadcaster Joshua Sang are both accused of murder, deportation and persecution of political opponents in Kenya’s Rift Valley region in late 2007 and early 2008. Both men pleaded not guilty to all the charges. Prosecutors have complained of widespread witness intimidation leading into the trial and some witnesses have refused to testify, throwing the strength of the case into question. The start of the trial was twice delayed to give defense attorneys more time to prepare. Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda told judges that the intimidation of witnesses was so damaging it was “something of an achievement” that she was able to bring the case to trial. Bensouda told the court and a public gallery packed with Kenyan supporters of the two defendants that Ruto used networks within his Kalenjin tribe to target political opponents and members of the rival Kikuyu tribe. Bensouda said more than 200 people were killed in the Rift Valley and 1,000 injured. Thousands more were forced from their homes. “It is difficult to imagine the suffering or the terror of the men, women and children who were burned alive, hacked to death or chasedb.gif?host=world.time.com&blog=19871253&post=102510&subd=timeglobalspin&ref=&feed=1

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