No case to answer in the ICC case, what does this mean?

Advocacy StatementsApril 15, 20160 CommentsKituo Cha Sheria

Article 66(2) of the Rome statute places the onus to prove the guilt of any accused person(s) on the Prosecutor. Thus, a ‘no case to answer’ motion, is appropriately brought in cases where the Prosecution has failed to fulfill that burden by not having presented evidence for the elements that would be required to be proven in order to support a conviction in any trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC).[1]

The primary rationale underpinning the hearing of a ‘no case to answer’ motion – or, in effect, a motion for a judgment of (partial) acquittal – is the principle that an accused should not be called upon to answer a charge when the evidence presented by the Prosecution is substantively insufficient to engage the need for the defense to mount a defense case.[2] This reasoning flows from the rights of an accused to presumption of innocence and to a fair and speedy trial, which are reflected in Articles 66(1) and 67(1) of the Rome Statute.[3]

The applicable legal standard for any ‘no case to answer motion’ is whether or not, on the basis of a prima facie assessment of the sufficiency of the evidence, there is a case. Simply put, if there is a case whereby a reasonable Trial Chamber could convict the accused. The emphasis is on the word ‘could’ and the exercise contemplated is thus not one which assesses the evidence to the standard for a conviction at the final stage of a trial.[4] Thus, the determination of a ‘no case to answer’ motion does not entail an evaluation of the strength of the evidence presented, especially in regards to exhaustive questions of credibility or reliability. Such matters – which go to the strength of evidence rather than its existence – are to be weighed in the final deliberations in light of the entirety of the evidence presented.[5]

Based on a combined reading of Articles 69(4) and 74(2) of the Rome Statute and Rule 64(3) of the ICC Rules, the Trial Chamber thus in its assessment of a ‘no case to answer’ motion only consider as evidence only what has been submitted and discussed at trial and has been found to be admissible by the Chamber.[6]

The Prosecution’s case, against Mr. Ruto and Mr. Sang, is built around a central allegation that a ‘Network’ existed.[7] The existence of this Network is said to prove that there was an organization in the sense of the organizational policy requirement in Article 7(2)(a) of the Rome Statute, which mandates that the widespread or systematic attack against a civilian population must have been ‘pursuant to or in furtherance of a State or organizational policy to commit such an attack’. At the same time, the reasons behind the creation of the Network are alleged to constitute the criminal common plan of the Network’s ‘key members’.[8]

The Prosecution thus had to demonstrate that there existed a ‘Network’ by firstly, adducing evidence to show that Mr Ruto held three preparatory meetings at his house in Sugoi with the aim of mobilizing and coordinating the Network members and the Kalenjin youth from different areas of the Rift Valley, and obtaining weapons for the Kalenjin youth.[9] To prove the three meetings and what was discussed at them, the Prosecution relied exclusively on evidence contained in the prior recorded testimony of Witnesses 397, 604 and 495. However as at the time of the decision of this motion of no case to answer, these witness statements no longer formed part of the evidence in the case thus none of the alleged preparatory meetings is supported by evidence.[10]

Secondly, the Prosecution had to prove their allegation that the Network members organized, financed and completed the training of Kalenjin youths to carry out attacks against PNU supporters in order to drive them out of the Rift Valley.[11] The Prosecution relied on the evidence of Witnesses 516, 800 and 495 to prove these allegations. However, as a result of the Appeals Chamber’s ruling on the inadmissibility of recanted evidence, the prior-recorded statements of Witnesses 516 and 495 no longer supported these allegations.[12] The only remaining evidence relied on by the Prosecution as proof that the training of youths had in fact been done is that given by Witness 800. During examination-in-chief, Witness 800 stated that he witnessed first-hand from his home youths leaving in Lorries and that he saw them returning some time later.[13] Directly upon their return, around November 2007, the witness claimed to have spoken to the youths and that they provided him with the details of the three-week training camp that they had just attended at the farm of a man named ‘Muzuri’ in Boronjo, five kilometres from Ziwa.[14] However, in cross-examination, Witness 800 confirmed that the information about the training had been contained in a report that Witness 495 had prepared for an organization that both these witnesses worked for at the time.[15] As already indicated, the statement of Witness 495 is no longer evidence that can be relied on. Further it is clear that Witness 800 perjured himself while under oath.  Even if he had admitted to Witness 495 being his source from the outset, the training camp evidence would be just hearsay that originated from an anonymous source.[16] It was also noted that Witness 800 admitted to his involvement in witness interference under oath.[17] He testified that he provided the Prosecution with his initial statement in October 2012, but that in July 2013, following a number of meetings with certain individuals and in return for the payment of a bribe, he agreed to recant his statement, as well as to approach other Prosecution witnesses, including witness 495, in order to convince them to also recant.[18] He further admitted to signing a pre-written affidavit, in which he recanted his earlier statement, despite knowing most of its contents to be untrue.[19] The Trial Chamber thus concluded that Witness 800 untrustworthy and therefore any evidence from him is incapable of being relied upon by any reasonable Trial Chamber.[20]

Thirdly, the Prosecution had to prove that the Network acquired weapons which were in fact used as part of the implementation of the common plan. In this regard thus the Prosecution had to prove its allegation on the occurrence of a fundraiser in Ziwa on 31st December 2007 in order to collect funds, inter alia, to obtain weapons for Kalenjin youth that were to take part in the ‘war’ against Kikuyu. The Prosecution as concerning this relied on recorded testimony of Witness 495 and the in-court testimony of Witness 658. As already indicated the evidence of witness 495 was excluded. The Trial Chamber ruled that the evidence of witness 658 given about the Ziwa fundraiser is insufficient support for the Prosecution’s allegations as there is no (other) evidence showing that the money allegedly contributed was actually used to buy guns or, more importantly, that these weapons were actually used to commit crimes pursuant to the Network’s alleged common plan to attack PNU supporters and the Kikuyu civilian population; rather than for other possible purposes, such as defending the Kalenjin community against perceived potential aggressors, like the Mungiki. In relation to the personal involvement of both accused, there is insufficient evidence to suggest that Mr Sang, who allegedly promoted the event on his radio show, was aware of the alleged purpose of the fundraiser. Further, the Trial Chamber decided that Witness 658’s evidence did not prove that Mr Ruto knew that the money he allegedly donated would be used to buy guns that were intended for criminal activities.[21]

The half time submission of ‘no case to answer’ is a legal argument put to the court at the cessation of the prosecution’s case. It is wholly dependent on the substantial value of the evidence adduced by the prosecution. It begs the question; where the evidence is of a tenuous or erratic nature, can the Chambers properly convict upon it? Thus on the 9th day of August 2013, the chamber held that it would permit the ‘no case to answer’ submissions by the defendants at the end of the prosecutors’ presentation of evidence. On the 5th day of April the Chambers ruled that indeed the accused had no case to answer based on the evidence adduced by the prosecution. However, this decision may be subject to appeal.

By Jepher Kere and Wangari Karige


[1] ICTY, The Prosecutor v William Samoei Ruto & Joshua Arap Sang, Case No. ICC-01/09-01/11-2020, Trial Chamber Decision No. 5 on the Conduct of Trial Proceedings (Principles and Procedure on ‘No Case to Answer’ Motions, delivered on 22-01-2016, para 13.

[2] ICTY, Prosecutor v Slobodan Milosevic, Case No. IT-02-54-T, Trial Chamber Decision on Motion for Judgement of Acquittal, 16 June 2004, para. 11; ICTY, Prosecutor v Pavle Strugar, Case No. IT-01-42-T, Trial Chamber, Decision on Defence Motion Requesting Judgement of Acquittal Pursuant to Rule 986/5′, 21 June 2004, para. 13. See also Vladhnir Tochilovsky, Jurisprudence of the International Criminal Courts and the European Court of Human Rights: Procedure and Evidence (Martinus Nijhoff Publishers 2008), pages 538-539, considering the procedure in the context of Rule 9ibis of the ad hoc tribunals.

[3] Decision No. 5 on the Conduct of Trial Proceedings (n 1), para 12.

[4] Ibid, para 22.

[5] Ibid, para 24. Compare Article 74(2) of the Statute. See also, in support, United Kingdom, Court of Appeal of England and Wales, Regina v Galbraith, 1981 1 WLR 1039 (‘Galbraith U.K. Appeal Judgment’).

[6] Prosecutor v Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, Trial Chamber I, Judgment pursuant to Article 74 of the Statute, 14 March 2012, ICC-01/04-01/06-2842 (‘Lubanga Judgment’), para. 101.

[7] Updated Document Containing the Charges, ICC-01/09-01/11-533-Anx A, at paras 20-21

[8] ICTY, The Prosecutor v William Samoei Ruto & Joshua Arap Sang, Case No ICC-01/09-01/11, Trial Chamber V (A) Decision on Defence Applications for Judgments of Acquittal Delivered on 5th April, 2016, para 25.

[9] Consolidated Response, ICC-01/09-01/11-2000-Red2, para. 153. The meetings themselves are discussed in paras 154-159.

[10] Decision on Defence Applications for Judgments of Acquittal (n 8), para 36.

[11] Consolidated Response, ICC-01/09-01/11-2000-Red2, paras 147, 152, 160-161.

[12] Decision on Defence Applications for Judgments of Acquittal (n 8), para 38.

[13] Transcript of hearing 18 November 2014, ICC-01/09-01/11-T-155-CONF-ENG, pp 23-24.

[14] Ibid, at 18-19, 26

[15] Transcript of hearing 25 November 2014, ICC-01/09-01/11-T-160-CONF-ENG, at 39; and Witness

495’s witness statement, initially admitted under Rule 68: KEN-OT0084-0236, at 3.

[16] Decision on Defence Applications for Judgments of Acquittal (n 8), para 41.

[17] ICC-01/09-01/11-1866-Conf, at Parts VI and VII.

[18] Transcript of hearing 20 November 2014, ICC-01/09-01/11-T-157-CONF-ENG, at 13-14

[19] Decision on Defence Applications for Judgments of Acquittal (n 8), para 42.

[20] Ibid, para 43.

[21] Ibid, para 49-53

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