Deputy President William Ruto on Tuesday told the International Criminal Court (ICC) that he will co-operate fully even as he pleaded his innocence.
Speaking at the Status Conference hearing at The Hague, Mr Ruto said he was fully aware of his own personal duty and the government’s obligation to the Rome Statute.
“I will fully cooperate with the court,” he told judges Kuniko Ozaki, Robert Fremr and Chile Eboe-Osuji.
However, ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda opposed Mr Ruto’s application to have the case facing him start in November. She also opposed Mr Ruto’s application that he follows the trial through a video link.
Earlier, Mr Ruto said he was a victim of a “conspiracy of lies choreographed by networks against truth and justice.”
The Deputy President, who was allowed to address the court at the end of Tuesday’s session, told the judges that he had planned to travel back to Kenya.
“I was scheduled to leave this evening with the permission of the court, but if the court decides otherwise, I’m ready to change my travel plans so that I am present tomorrow,” he said.
Eyes of the victims
The judges ruled that he was not under any obligation to attend Wednesday’s session.
And while giving the prosecutor’s submissions on behalf of Ms Bensouda, Ms Cynthia Tai asked the court to commence the trial facing Mr Ruto and radio presenter Joshua arap Sang “as soon as possible”.
She said the prosecution was ready to commence the case “immediately”.
“A trial date of December will be excessive,” she told the judges.
She argued that Mr Ruto’s absence from the court would undermine the integrity of the trial in the eyes of the victims.
“The victims need to have confidence in the system, they need to feel that they are being heard by all the parties,” she said.
In his submissions, Mr Ruto’s lawyer, Mr Karim Khan, said the defence needed time to investigate “brand new” evidence introduced by the prosecutor and that a November date would give it adequate time to interrogate the evidence.
“The party opposite has introduced thousands and thousands of brand new evidence putting the defence in a difficult position to follow a case which keeps on changing,” Mr Khan said.
“That is why we are asking for more time to investigate this brand new evidence. The trial date of 28th May should not be set in stone,” he said. He accused the prosecutor of inducing witnesses with promises of cash and land.
“We know that he who pays the piper calls the tune. We want to know whether witnesses have been promised cash, land and other inducements by the party opposite,” he said.
Mr Sang’s lawyer, Mr Katwa Kigen, also objected to the prosecutor’s application to introduce new witnesses and evidence, saying, it was a ploy by Ms Bensouda to replace witnesses who had voluntarily withdrawn from the case. He, however, said that the radio presenter was ready to attend the full trial in person.
Mr Kigen demanded that the defence be allowed to cross-examine the lead investigator in the case facing him and Mr Ruto.
Through video link
The Status Conference was convened to deliberate on the prosecutor’s request to add five people to her list of witnesses and Mr Ruto’s request to have the trial postponed from May 28 to November and beyond, and the modalities of his participation in the trial through video link.
Judges will set the date for the commencement of the case after hearing submissions from all the parties.