A judge overseeing the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] case of Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] requested on Saturday to be excused from hearing the case while leveling sharp criticism at prosecutors handling the case. Kenyatta and his deputy president William Ruto are facing ICC charges of crimes against humanity for their alleged involvement in violence following the 2007 election [JURIST news archive] where allegations of fraud [JURIST report] led to more than a thousand deaths in ethnic clashes following the election. Judge Christine Van den Wyngaert [ICC profile] did not associate her decision to withdraw [Reuters report] from the case to the conduct of the prosecutors, instead claiming her decision was the result of an overburdened work schedule. In her concurring opinion [text, PDF] denying a defense motion to refer the case back to the ICC's Pre-Trial Chamber, Van den Wyngaert described the prosecution as "negligent" and claimed:
"[T]here are serious questions as to whether the Prosecution conducted a full and thorough investigation of the case against the accused prior to confirmation. In fact, I believe that the facts show that the Prosecution had not complied with its obligations under article 54(1)(a) at the time when it sought confirmation and that it was still not even remotely ready when the proceedings before this Chamber started."Article 54 of the Rome Statute [text] establishes the obligations and duties on ICC prosecutors conducting criminal investigations. Despite the alleged deficiencies in the prosecution's case the trial is set to begin on July 9.
Even with the crimes against humanity charges pending against him, Kenyatta was still able to win a controversial election [JURIST report] to the presidency last month. Kenyatta was sworn in following a March ruling [JURIST reports] from Kenya's Supreme Court [official website] that the results of the country's presidential election were valid, denying an appeal [JURIST report] by Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga [Al Jazeera profile]. Earlier in March Kenyatta's lawyer asked the ICC to drop the charges [JURIST report] against him for lack of evidence, but the prosecution refused. Kenyatta's request was based on the ICC's withdrawal [decision, PDF] of charges against co-defendant Francis Muthaura for lack of evidence. Kenyatta's lawyers claimed the evidence against Muthaura and Kenyatta was the same, but the prosecution disagreed. Kenyatta's trial has already been postponed [JURIST report] once in March after Kenyatta's defense team argued that they needed more time to respond to evidence revealed to them at the last minute leading up to the trial.