ICC seeks opinion on moving cases to Arusha

By Felix Olick

KENYA: The International Criminal Court (ICC) has requested Tanzania to make submissions on whether the two Kenya cases can be heard in Arusha.

The Trial Chamber V has also asked the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) headed by Judge Vagn Joesnsen from Denmark, to indicate whether it would be possible to have the sittings held within the court.

The Three Judge-Bench led by Presiding Judge Kuniko Ozaki is also seeking observations from Kenya, ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, the victims’ legal representatives, and the ICC registry.

“The Chamber hereby requests the Prosecutor, the Legal Representatives of the Victims and the Registry to submit observations on the subject matter referred to in paragraph 4 of the present order, including on questions of logistics and security, no later than February 22, and invites the Kenyan and Tanzanian authorities and the ICTR to submit observations on these matters by no later than March 8,” they judges ruled.

Uhuru appeal

TNA presidential candidate Uhuru Kenyatta and former Head of Civil Service Francis Muthaura had last year requested to have their cases moved from The Hague to Kenya or Arusha. Muthaura asked the Chamber to consider holding the trial in Kenya or Arusha or at the ICTR premises. However, the judges rejected the application and directed them to make the application to the ICC presidency, which they did.

Last year on December 24, Ruto and co-accused, radio Journalist Joshua Arap Sang, also filed with the presidency a joint defence application for a change of place where the court shall sit for trial. Their defence teams argued having the trials at The Hague would?mean?taking defendants away from security and comfort of their homes, social network and support of friends and ? family, their work and other vocations.

“In the case of Ruto, who holds public office, and as a matter of public record, is aspiring for higher office, it would also mean taking him away from exercising his public duty,” his defence lawyers argued in an apparent reference to their presidential bid.

Early last month, Attorney General Githu Muigai wrote to the ICC President Judge Sang-Hyun Song in what was seen as a final push by the Government to have the cases heard locally.

“On January 18, the Court had received a letter from a representative of the authorities of the Republic of Kenya, dated January 11, requesting an invitation at the appropriate time for the Kenyan Government to make representations in response to a request for a change of venue made by the defence in the case of The Prosecutor, Francis Muthaura and Uhuru Kenyatta,” the judges noted.

Bensouda and the lawyers representing victims whose observation on the possibility to change the seat of trial is also being sought had conceded some key witnesses have been intimidated, compromised, or threatened with death and execution. The Chamber is planning a Status Conference mid this month ahead of the trials on April 10 and 11.