International Criminal Court grants Deputy President William Ruto three days off from the trial
THE HAGUE TRIAL
By FELIX OLICK
| October 25th 2013
BY FELIX OLICK
The trials of Deputy President William Ruto will proceed for the first time in his absence at the International criminal Court for three days next week.
This is after the ICC Judges allowed Ruto to return to Kenya from The Hague to allow President Uhuru Kenyatta to attend a regional meeting in Rwanda.
Lead Prosecution Lawyer Anton Steynberg did not oppose the request saying that Ruto has attended the trials faithfully.
“ The ruling is by concession of the parties and the Chamber grants the application,” said judge Chile Eboe-Osuji.
In the morning yesterday, the Appeals Chamber headed by ICC President Sang-Hyun Song had ruled that an accused can be allowed to skip trials under ‘exceptional circumstances’.
“The decision as to whether the accused may be excused from attending part of his or her trial must be taken on a case-by-case basis, with due regard to the subject matter of the specific hearings that the accused would not attend during the period for which excusal has been requested,” the ruling reads in part.
The request by Ruto came just two hours after the Appeals Chamber rendered its decision.
Quoting the ruling, Khan said that a precedent has now been set that trials can proceed under exceptional circumstances in the absence of his client.
“What we are asking for is to allow the President of the Republic of Kenya to attend to his stately responsibilities and Mr Ruto to return to Kenya,” Khan observed.
Although the Prosecution did not oppose the yesterday’s application, they notified the judges that they would in future oppose such request.
Mr Steynberg maintained that from the standard set by the Appeals Chamber, an accused can only be excused from continuous presence at trial in exceptional circumstances.
“The tragic attack on Westgate Mall for example constitute an exceptional circumstance because it is something that is not for seen,” he submitted.
Khan had requested that Ruto be allowed to skip routine presence for three days starting.
“He (Ruto) has attended all hearings as required by the Trial Chamber and we say that the period of excusal is fairly limited,” requested Khan yesterday
Ruto’s presence in Kenya would enable Uhuru to attend the tripartite meeting that would discuss regional security and infrastructure in Rwanda
Both the president and the deputy should not be away at the same time.
During the meeting, Uhuru is expected to meet Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and his Rwandan counterpart Paul Kagame.
Yesterday, Legal Representative of Victims Fergal Gaynor predicted that the ‘flexible’ approach by the Appeals Chamber would make it difficult for the United Nations Security Council to defer the two Kenyan cases.
“It must also be recognized that the Appeals Chamber has left the door open to applications by Mr Kenyatta to be absent from trial in “exceptional circumstances”, which it has left undefined. It has also emphasized that absences can be accommodated by changes to the trial schedule or short adjournments of the trial,” observed the victims lawyer.
“This pragmatic and flexible approach of the Appeals Chamber means that it will be very difficult for Mr Kenyatta to convincingly argue before the Security Council that it should vote in favour of an Article 16 resolution to suspend his trial for a year,”
Gaynor said that it would be a terrible tragedy for members of the UN Security Council to vote in favour of a deferral.
“A vote in favour of an Article 16 resolution would be a vote in favour of impunity, and could permanently erase any hope of justice for the thousands of surviving victims of the brutal crimes committed during the post-election violence,”
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