The Hague - International Criminal Court judges on Wednesday ordered prosecutors to indicate within a week whether the trial of Kenya's president can start or if all charges against him should be dropped.
The order could signal the impending end of the case against President Uhuru Kenyatta, who is charged with involvement in deadly violence that erupted after his country's 2007 presidential elections.
Prosecutors have, in the past, acknowledged that their evidence is not strong enough to proceed to trial and have accused Kenyan authorities of failing to co-operate with their investigations.
Kenyatta is charged as an "indirect co-perpetrator" with murder, deportation, rape, persecution and inhumane acts allegedly carried out during violence that left more than 1 000 people dead after the 2007 election. Kenyatta insists he is innocent.
The case against him has been beset by problems and delays, with prosecution witnesses refusing to testify or recanting their statements.
Also Read: Alias-Fatile says ICC is lacking respect
The prosecution asked judges earlier this year to adjourn the case indefinitely until Kenya fully co-operates in its investigation. Judges on Wednesday rejected that request and instead ordered prosecutors to tell them if the case can go ahead now.
The court's prosecution office said in a written reaction that it was studying the decision.
Kenyatta would be the first sitting head of state to stand trial at the International Criminal Court, if his case goes ahead.
At a hearing in October, prosecution lawyer Benjamin Gumpert claimed Kenyan authorities were stymieing investigations and warned that scrapping the case would send a worrying message to other government leaders who could face prosecutions in the future.
Gumpert said such a decision would be interpreted as "the court saying that if a country sticks out for long enough obstructing proper inquiries being made by the prosecution ... then the case ... will go away."