The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) says victims of Kenya’s 2007-2008 post-election violence will not be forgotten, even though charges against Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta have been dropped.
Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda withdrew crimes against humanity charges against Kenyatta, citing witness intimidation, harassment and the failure of Kenya’s government to “meaningfully” cooperate with the Hague-based court.
The ICC had accused Kenyatta of playing a key role in the post-election violence that left an estimated 1,000 people dead and scores displaced.
In an interview with VOA, Bensouda said the court’s aim in filing charges against Kenyatta was to address the East African country’s post-election violence by seeking justice for the victims.
She described her inability to follow through with the prosecution process as a denial of justice for the victims of the crimes committed during the post-election violence.
“This is why I say that it is a dark day for international criminal justice,” said Bensouda. “There are several reasons why we had to withdraw the charges in this case and one of them is lack of cooperation of the government of Kenya, [and] another one is intimidation of witnesses for them not to be able to come forward to give us their evidence.”
Bensouda expressed hope that survivors of the violence would appreciate the work her team put into the investigation and filing of charges against Kenyatta to ensure they received justice, despite the lack of cooperation from the administration in Nairobi.
“The fact that we are confronted with these challenges is really the reason why the charges are being withdrawn and no other reason. Not because we do not want to do justice in this case,” said Bensouda. “But, we will not forget the victims. We will keep trying. I will be receiving information, we will be assessing that information, and we will know what further steps we are going to try based on the information that we will receive.”
Critics say dismissing the charges shows the ICC has failed the victims of the post-election violence. They accused the prosecutor and her team of appearing to be in a haste to make history by being the first to successfully prosecute a sitting head of state instead of a thoroughly inquiry and gathering evidence that could strengthen the case against Kenyatta.
Bensouda sharply disagreed with the criticisms. She emphasized that Kenyatta had been indicted before he was elected as president. She said ICC judges confirmed the charges her office presented about the allegations of crimes against humanity.
“I think these critics are wrong,” said Bensouda. “This has to be clear. We never indicted a sitting head of state. We indicted a citizen of Kenya in his personal capacity, when he was not even running for office as president.”