Kenya Deputy President William Ruto [ICC materials; JURIST news archive] on Tuesday pleaded not guilty [press release] to charges of crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website]. Ruto is on trial for three counts of crimes against humanity for allegedly fomenting violence following the 2007 elections that led to the deaths of at least 1,100 people and displacement of more than 600,000. Ruto's lawyer accused prosecutors [Reuters report] of conducting a flawed investigation and also of using tainted evidence. In June the ICC conditionally granted Ruto's request [JURIST report] to be excused from parts of his trial. The Trial Chamber will still require Ruto to be present for certain parts of the trial, such as for opening and closing statements and for presentations by victims. Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, in her opening speech, described "a carefully planned and executed plan of violence" by Ruto. Ruto is the first senior serving politician to appear in an international court. Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta [official website] is also charged with crimes against humanity, but his trial is not set to begin until November 12.
In protest of these trials, Kenya's National Assembly voted last week to withdraw from the ICC [JURIST report], and is expected to do so in the upcoming month. Kenya's parliament began to formally debate [JURIST report] withdrawal earlier last week. In July the ICC rejected [JURIST report] a request by Kenyan officials to change the forum of the trials to Kenya or Tanzania. Earlier in May Kenya's ambassador to the UN requested [JURIST report] that the charges against Kenyatta be dismissed. Even with charges for crimes against humanity pending against him, Kenyatta was able to win a controversial election [JURIST report] to the presidency in March. Kenyatta was sworn in as the country's fourth president following a ruling [JURIST report] from Kenya's Supreme Court that the election results were valid. The ruling came despite argument among the international community that the March election was, in fact, marred by technological failures [JURIST op-ed] and the shortcomings of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commissions.