|Deputy President William Ruto and MPs Kimani Ichung’wah and Moses Ole Sakuda outside the ICC at The Hague, Wednesday. [PHOTO: DPPS/STANDARD]|
By FELIX OLICK
The Hague: Judges of the ICC have expressed displeasure with the prosecution’s lack of preparedness for the trial of Deputy President William Ruto after the proceedings were abruptly postponed.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) trial in Case One involving Ruto and journalist Joshua arap Sang was adjourned a day after it began because the prosecution was not ready to call the first witness.
Presiding Judge Chile Eboe-Osuji termed it “a shame” that ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda had no witness to take to the stand yet the court had been ready to proceed.
“It’s a shame really because we were hoping to proceed today, but that is the reality we have (to grapple with),” the Nigerian judge said as he adjourned trial proceedings to next Tuesday.
Prosecution Counsel Anton Stynberg told the three-judge Bench that their first witness would only take to the witness stand on Tuesday.
That the prosecution was not certain about the specific day the witness would arrive at The Hague added to the intrigue.
“The witness is en route and will arrive here (The Hague) either today or tomorrow. We do anticipate to continue on Tuesday because Monday is a public holiday,” said the trial lawyer.
The duel between the prosecution and the defence teams over the matter continued outside the courtroom yesterday.
Speaking to journalists outside court, Ruto’s lead counsel Karim Khan tore into the prosecution’s case, saying it was a “mess” that Bensouda inherited from her predecessor, the flamboyant Luis Moreno-Ocampo.
Khan, who has taunted the prosecution to withdraw the case before it goes to full trial, claimed it would soon collapse.
“Maybe she (Bensouda) has been misled. But clearly this is a nonsensical contortion of the truth to frame Mr Ruto and Mr Sang. Kenyans will see for themselves over the next few days,” charged Khan.
But in a quick rejoinder, the ICC Spokesman Fadi El Abdallah sought to clear the air on the adjournment, which he said had no impact whatsoever on the case.
“The adjournment of today and the hearings resuming Tuesday was known since the Status Conference on Monday,” Fadi told The Standard in an interview. “It is due to logistical needs related to witnesses’ travel. It does not have any impact on the case,” said Fadi, as he sought to quell rumours that have swirled around since the development.
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Fadi added: “Only the Judges can decide on the credibility of the evidence after the trial. In previous cases as well, breaks and adjournments took place, and this with no bearing on the outcome of the cases, which can be decided only by the judges after fair proceedings.”
According to the initial ICC schedule, the first witness was to give his/her testimony yesterday, with the session stretching for three consecutive weeks.
The case against Ruto and Sang was initially scheduled to run from September 10 to October 4 and then take a short break before resuming on October 14 to November 1.
President Uhuru Kenyatta’s trial opens on November 12.
Following the interruption of proceedings, Deputy President Ruto and his wife, Rachel, were due to fly back to Nairobi last night.
In court prior to adjournment of the proceedings, Stynberg clarified that they had lined up more than 22 witnesses to prove that Ruto and Sang were responsible for the bloodletting that followed the bungled 2007 presidential polls.
Stynberg explained that there were 22 victims and witnesses.
“I was not saying that the prosecution was now limiting its witness list to 22 people. The 22 are so-called crime-based witnesses,” he added, apparently responding to claims that the number of witnesses was reducing.
Bensouda had earlier indicated that she intended to call 42 witnesses to testify against the pair.
Earlier, the court had granted her about seven months to prosecute her case.
The new development will alter the ICC schedule. But the international court has assured that Ruto’s trial will not overlap with that of President Kenyatta.
“The Chamber indicated that it would be sitting in alternating periods of the judicial calendar. This will entail a minimum block of four weeks of the judicial calendar exclusively devoted to one case, before passing to another block devoted to the other Kenyan case,” said a brief statement from the ICC.
In court, Sang left everybody in stitches as he explained why he is baffled by the prosecution’s allegations against him:
“Could the Government have failed to stop me from inciting people because I was too short to be noticed by the law?” Sang posed.
Earlier, he had described himself as the shortest journalist in Kenya and was compelled to resign from Kass FM “to deal with this animal” (crimes against humanity).
His lawyer, Katwa Kigen, poked holes in the prosecution’s case, saying Ruto’s political adversaries had framed his client.
“Political opponents of his co-accused capitalised on his friend (Ruto) to frame him… The Prosecution has missed the purpose for which the Statute was formulated,” claimed Katwa.
“They have placed the Statute (ICC founding treaty — the Rome Statute) at the disposal of political opponents of my client’s co-accused,” Kigen sensationally claimed. He criticised Moreno-Ocampo for allegedly working with non-governmental organisations, which were allegedly in the process for financial gain, to gather evidence.
Kigen painted the picture of Sang as an innocent Christian, more sinned against than sinning, and called on the prosecution to drop the case altogether.