ICC delays cases of William Ruto and Laurent Gbagbo

William Ruto at The Hague (14 May 2013) William Ruto insists he is innocent of the charges

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The International Criminal Court has announced that Kenyan Deputy President William Ruto will go on trial for crimes against humanity in September.

It also recommended parts of the trial should be held in Kenya or Tanzania.

Mr Ruto denies orchestrating 2007 post-election violence, as does fellow indictee President Uhuru Kenyatta.

The ICC also said the prosecution case against former Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo was not strong enough to proceed to trial.

The two announcements come after weeks of pressure from other African states and the African Union to drop the charges against Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy.

The AU said the ICC was being racist by only prosecuting cases in Africa - an allegation the chief prosecutor, who is from The Gambia, denies by saying she is standing up for the African victims of crimes against humanity.

Analysis

Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda has always appeared adamant the Kenyan suspects must appear at The Hague, but the judges have decided that justice may be better served by allowing the deputy president to stand trial in Tanzania or even at home in Kenya. The defence are likely to argue the same rules must apply to President Uhuru Kenyatta.

But even more damaging perhaps is the public indictment of the prosecution's handling of the Laurent Gbagbo case. The deadline to rectify this failure has been set for November, by which time Mr Gbagbo will have been in ICC custody for two years. His lawyers are likely to apply for a temporary release.

One of the founding principles of the ICC was to demonstrate that no-one, no matter how rich or influential, should be able to evade justice. The prosecution has a responsibility to show its accusations are supported by tangible evidence.

Mr Kenyatta's trial is scheduled to begin in July.

'Insufficient evidence'

On Monday, judges at the ICC accepted the request by Mr Ruto's lawyers for more time to prepare his defence.

They ruled that the trial of the deputy president - along with his co-accused, broadcaster Joshua arap Sang - would be delayed until 10 September.

The ICC judges also said it might "be desirable to hold the commencement of trial and other portions thereof, to be determined at a later stage, in Kenya or, alternatively, in Tanzania".

However, the prosecution said that despite its concerns about security it favoured bringing the trial closer to the victims.

In another major development on Monday, the ICC announced the case against the former president of the Ivory Coast, Laurent Gbagbo, had been adjourned because of "insufficient evidence".

The judges said the evidence against Mr Gbagbo presented by prosecutors was not strong enough to allow the case to move to trial, but not weak enough for them to throw out the charges.

The news attracted rare criticism from Human Rights Watch, which said the decision "highlights the urgent need for the prosecutor's office to improve the way it builds cases".

Mr Gbagbo faces four charges of crimes against humanity relating to the violence that followed disputed presidential elections in 2010.

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