NAIROBI, KENYA — Charges against the former head of Kenya’s civil service have been dropped by the International Criminal Court, after a key witness admitted to being bribed.
However, the case continues against President-elect Uhuru Kenyatta and two other Kenyans who are charged with orchestrating post-election violence in early 2008.
ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said she's withdrawing charges against Francis Muthaura because of what she termed the "severe challenges" her office faced.
Muthaura was one of four Kenyans charged with orchestrating violence which followed Kenya’s disputed presidential election in late 2007.
Bensouda said the government of Kenya had failed to provide access to evidence and that potential witnesses had either died or were too afraid to assist the prosecution.
She said her office also lost faith in the credibility of an important witness.
“The fact that we have decided to drop a key witness against Mr. Muthaura, after this witness recanted a crucial part of his evidence, and admitted to us that he had accepted bribes,” Bensouda said.
Last month, Bensouda accused Kenyatta of bribing witnesses in the case. The president-elect denied the allegation and said witnesses were trying to extort money from him.
Kenyatta, who was elected president last week, faced trial alongside Muthaura, who was head of civil service at the time of the post-election violence.
Both were charged as indirect co-perpetrators of crimes against humanity, including murder, displacement, and rape.
Kenyatta’s running mate and future deputy, William Ruto, faces a separate trial at the ICC, along with former radio presenter Joshua arap Sang, for similar crimes.
Emphasizing that her decision applies only to Muthaura, Bensouda suggested Kenyatta and Ruto’s election would have no impact on their cases.
“While we are all aware of the political developments in Kenya, these have no influence at all on the decisions that I make as prosecutor of the International Criminal Court," Bensouda said. "As I have consistently underscored, the International Criminal Court is a judicial institution.”
More than 1,100 people were killed and 600,000 displaced during the inter-ethnic fighting that followed the 2007 vote.
The ICC charges became a major issue for Kenyatta during his campaign for the presidency in this month's election.
Some Western nations have said they will have to limit their contact with the future president.