The International Criminal Court (ICC) has ruled that Kenya’s deputy president, William Ruto, must attend key segments of his trial on charges of crimes against humanity scheduled to begin in September, according to a court spokesman.
Ruto and Kenya President Uhuru Kenyatta face similar charges before the court in connection with their alleged role in the country’s 2007-2008 post-election violence.
“The trial chamber has decided to grant the excusal from being present at the trial, except for key hearings of the opening, the closing, the statements of the parties, and when the victims will be presenting their personal concerns and views as well as when the verdict will be pronounced. And eventually if applicable, all the issues related to sentencing and reparations for the victims,” said Fadi el-Abdallah, ICC spokesman.
Ruto’s defense attorneys had petitioned the court to excuse him from having to attend the trial. They also requested that Ruto be allowed to use a video-link during his trial.
El-Abdallah said that since the trial chamber granted the request to excuse Ruto from being present during all of the trial, the judges did not need to examine the subsidiary request for the video link.
Some Kenyans criticized the ruling, saying the demand for Ruto to be present during throughout trial would put financial strain on the country, since he would have to be accompanied by a security detail because of his status as a leader in Kenya. They contend that a video link would save taxpayers money. El-Abdallah disagreed.
He says Mr. Ruto would be on trial not as the deputy president of the East African nation, but as a person accused as one of the masterminds of the post-poll violence.
“The ICC is not trying the deputy president of Kenya,” continued el-Abdallah, “the person who is at trial before the ICC is Mr. Ruto in his personal capacity and not in his official capacity. So, he is requested to be here in his personal capacity, and not as the deputy head of state.”
Fatou Bensouda, the ICC prosecutor, recently threatened to report Kenya’s government to the United Nations Security Council if the country refused to fully cooperate with the court in the cases against both President Kenyatta and Ruto.
She also said Kenya’s attorney general, Githu Muigai, had blocked the ICC’s investigative team from collecting evidence and talking to witnesses. But Muigai rejected the allegation and accused Bensouda of “peddling unsupported claims based on paranoia, misunderstandings or false conclusions.”
El-Abdallah said the judges are considering the impasse between the office of the prosecutor and Kenya’s government.
“There is no decision, yet but the different views have been expressed and observations submitted to the judges, who can decide on what will be the correct and adequate measures to implement here,” said el-Abdallah.
“It is not for the prosecutor to bring issues of non-cooperation to the Security Council. It’s only for the judges to make findings eventually of non-cooperation of a state that has the obligation to cooperate with the ICC…the issue of the Security Council can be used only if investigations have been open upon a request by the Security Council, which is not the case for Kenya,” el-Abdallah clarified.
The trial for Mr. Ruto is scheduled for September 10.
The ICC accuses Ruto and President Kenyatta of playing a role in Kenya’s 2007-2008 post-election violence that left about 1,300 dead and hundreds of thousands displaced from their homes.