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ICC: Ruling clears way for full trial of four suspects

Updated Fri, March 2nd 2012 at 00:00 GMT +3

By Alex Ndegwa

The International Criminal Court Appeals Division has ruled that the full trial of four Kenyans accused of crimes against humanity can go ahead.

The ruling has thrown the presidential bids of Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta and Eldoret North MP William Ruto into a spin.

It followed a rejection by the ICC Appeal Chamber of petitions by Ruto, Uhuru, Kass FM executive Joshua arap Sang and Francis Muthaura for the court to suspend their trials in the two cases, until appeals they had filed challenging its jurisdiction were heard and determined.

ICC President Judge Sang-Hyun Song can now go ahead and constitute a Trial Chamber to hear the cases.

William Ruto

Once the trials start, all four suspects would have to be present in court throughout the proceedings, a development that would cripple Uhuru and Ruto’s presidential campaigns should the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) clear them to run.

The judges to conduct the trials of the four post-election violence suspects will be picked from the Trial Division of the ICC, but will exclude any of the judges that sat on the pre-trial phase of the two cases.

The judges of the Trial Division include Kenya’s Joyce Aluoch, Sir Adrian Fulford of the UK who is also the President, Fatoumata Dembele Diarra (Mali), Elizabeth Odio Benito (Costa Rica), Bruno Cotte (France), Christine Van den Wyngaert (Belgium), Kuniko Ozaki (Japan), and RenÈ Blattman (Bolivia).

Once Justice Sang-Hyun Song constitutes the Chamber, it will further narrow the options for Uhuru and Ruto, the G7 leaders who have insisted nothing would stop them from running for president.

Threat to political ambitions

The two are also facing a local court case challenging their eligibility to run for high office and a tough Bill on Leadership and Integrity is due in Parliament, further complicating their positions.

But it is the rejection by the five judges of the Appeal Chamber of the applications for suspension of their trials that poses the greatest threat yet to their presidential ambitions.

ICC Rules of Procedure and Evidence also stipulate the presidency may also refer the case to a previously constituted Trial Chamber.

Start of trials would deny Uhuru and Ruto one of their claims for a right to be on the ballot in the election of Kenya’s fourth president that they are not yet on trial.

The Appeals Chamber, which will rule on whether the ICC has jurisdiction to try the two Kenya cases, held there was not sufficient grounds to support the appellants’ request for suspension of trials.

Presiding Judge of the Appeals Chamber Akua Kuenyehia, and fellow judges Sang Hyun Song, Erkki Kourula, Anita Ušack and Daniel David Ntanda Nsereko cited a past ruling on Jean-Pierre Bemba while rejecting the request by the four suspects for the trials to be suspended.

Bemba case

Further, the judges observed, the defendants did not provide any proper reasoning or submissions supporting their request.

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