By Elizabeth Evenson
Published April 16, 2016
Uhuru Kenyatta, Kenya’s President, hosted a “thanksgiving service” at a Nakuru stadium on April 16,2016 to express his gratitude that the International Criminal Court (ICC) had dropped charges of crimes against humanity against his deputy, William Ruto, and a co-defendant, former radio presenter, Joshua arap Sang.
Kenyatta called the case’s closure the end of “what has been a nightmare for my nation.” The case was the last pending before the ICC directly related to the deadly violence that rocked Kenya in the wake of the 2007 elections; charges against Kenyatta himself were formally dropped in 2015. Supporters of Kenyatta and Ruto may celebrate, but the nightmare for victims of that violence goes on.
Over the past eight years, my colleagues have interviewed many victims – first, to document the horrific violence; then, the absence of justice in Kenya, which left recourse to the ICC as a last resort. Most recently, our research underscored the lasting physical and psychological trauma and socio-economic hardship, particularly for survivors of sexual violence.
The suffering of the victims has been made all the worse by the Kenyan government’s failure to provide medical care, psychosocial support, and compensation, much less any accountability. Kenyatta has yet to make good on a promised “restorative justice” fund for victims.
Kenyatta and Ruto, cementing a decades-long tradition in Kenya of impunity for election-related violence, have waged a relentless campaign at home and abroad to undermine the ICC since taking office in 2013. Even now, according to news reports, the government continues to try to enlist the African Union in a threat to withdraw from the ICC. Kenyan authorities have yet to surrender three individuals wanted by the ICC on charges of bribing witnesses in the Ruto case to The Hague. One judge in the case was clear that “a troubling incidence of witness interference and intolerable political meddling” merited a mistrial.
There is little cause for celebration as the road to justice for Kenya’s post-election violence victims remains unclear.
Elizabeth Evenson is Senior Counsel in charge of International Justice Programme at Human Rights Watch.