Tuesday, 5 November 2013

ICC judges explain reasons for excusing Ruto from trial

Tuesday, November 5, 2013
Deputy President William Ruto sits in the courtroom of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague.  PHOTO/AFP
Deputy President William Ruto sits in the courtroom of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague. PHOTO/AFP 
By Walter Menya

The International Criminal Court excused Deputy President William Ruto from the courtroom because the reasons given by his defence met the threshold of exceptional circumstances.
While giving the reasons for the excusal Tuesday, presiding judge Chile Eboe-Osuji said the chamber was satisfied with the reasons in Mr Ruto’s application, which was largely in private session.
Mr Ruto was last Friday excused from being in the courtroom for the whole of this week.
“The chamber is satisfied that the circumstances are exceptional. The meetings that Mr Ruto and President Uhuru Kenyatta have were planned when the schedule did not foresee extension of the current session,” said judge Osuji.
The chamber also held that the criteria for excusal set in the judgement of the Appeals Chamber of October 25 were met.
In any case, the chamber agreed with the Ruto defence that adjournment, which is one of the alternatives available to it would not be feasible since there is witness 268 on the stand whose testimony cannot be disrupted.
On Friday, the Ruto defence requested that the chamber excuses him from the courtroom this week, listing a number of meetings at international level that President Kenyatta and Mr Ruto are required to attend.
“It was the submission of the defence that arrangements for the meetings were made on the understanding that there would be no sittings this week. The defence further submitted that adjournment was not an option since there is a witness on the stand.”
President Kenyatta left for an official visit to South Africa and Botswana on Monday and is expected back in the country Wednesday.
Thereafter, Mr Ruto will also be required to chair a meeting on refugee and drought on Thursday and Friday in Nairobi.
Both the prosecution and the victims’ lawyer had opposed the Ruto request arguing that granting him the excusal would make his absence the general rule rather than the exception, and thus go against the interpretation given by the Appeals Chamber on October 25.
The excusal of Mr Ruto came just two days after he returned to The Hague on Thursday October 31, having been away with the court’s permission to take charge of government affairs as President Kenyatta travelled to Kigali for a three-day official visit to attend a regional infrastructure and security meeting.
However, former journalist Joshua Sang’s application to be absent from the courtroom on November 1 to attend his daughter’s graduation was rejected, with the majority returning a decision that the request failed the exceptional test.

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