Kenya's Deputy President William Ruto pleads not guilty at ICC


Kenya's Deputy President William Ruto addresses supporters during a political rally in the capital Nairobi on Feb. 13, 2013.


Simon Maina

Kenya's Deputy President William Ruto pled not guilty to crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court, or ICC, on Tuesday, the first day of hearings that will decide if the politician is responsible for deadly violence that erupted after Kenya's 2007 elections.

Ruto is the first active political official to face charges at the ICC, an independent tribunal for war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity. Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, who is also accused of crimes, is scheduled for trial on Nov. 12.  

Ruto, charged alongside radio presenter Joshua arap Sang, is accused of, "murder, deportation or forcible transfer of population and persecution," all "allegedly committed in Kenya in the context of the 2007-2008 post-election violence," according to the ICC.

Some 1,300 people died and some 600,000 became homeless after election polls were disputed, with Ruto and Kenyatta, on opposing sides at the time, allegedly organizing violence against their rival's ethnic groups.

In trial on Tuesday, ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda summarized her case against Ruto.

"Ruto's ultimate goal was to seize power through violent means and not through the ballot box," Bensouda told ICC judges.

Sang, she claimed, had served as Ruto's "main mouthpiece," broadcasting "rhetoric [to] spread the word of attacks through...coded messages." Sang also plead not guilty.

On Monday, Kofi Anan, who in 2008 served on the African Union Panel of Eminent African Personalities, and helped end Kenya's crisis, said in a New York Times op-ed that the trials were the vital for Kenya and international law.

The trails make "clear that no one is above the law," he wrote, adding that they were "essential to combat decades of the use of violence for political ends by Kenya's political elite." 

Kenya's parliament recently voted to withdraw from the ICC, though the move - mostly a case of political theater - won't impact Kenyatta or Ruto's prosecutions.