Deputy President William Ruto scored a major victory Wednesday after the International Criminal Court (ICC) excused him from continuously attending trial at The Hague based court.
The decision that was read out by Presiding Judge Chile Eboe Osuji after a three hour Status Conference that had been convened to discuss the subject, however, came with conditions that must be fulfilled by the Deputy President.
The Presiding Judge said the Deputy President must be physically present in the courtroom for the entirety of closing statements of all parties and participants.
Mr Ruto, he said, must also be present in person when the victims of the 2007 post-election violence are presenting their views and concerns, during the delivery of judgement, sentencing hearing, sentencing as well as the entirety of victim impact hearings when applicable.
The Trial Judges said the Deputy President should also be present during the first five days of hearing starting after a judicial recess and any other attendance as directed by the chamber.
Judge Osuji also ruled that Mr Ruto must however attend the first five days of his trial that was set to resume Thursday but in light of the fact that he was currently deputizing for President Kenyatta, who is away on official duty in Angola, he will be excused from attending trial Thursday and Friday.
Said Mr Osuji, while making the oral ruling; “In view of the need by Mr Ruto to deputise for the President who is in Angola, Mr Ruto is hereby excused from attending trial on the 16th and 17th of January.”
Mr Ruto’s defence team, led by Lawyer Karim Khan, had earlier on made an oral application that Mr Ruto be excused from being in court since the President was away on official duty.
This now means that he will be expected to attend court from Monday to Wednesday next week. The judges also ruled that a waiver must be filled.
Wednesday’s decision by the court followed an application by the Deputy President last month, who through his lawyers led by Mr Khan, said he should be excused from continuously attending trial, citing the new rules adopted last year by the Assembly of State Parties.
Under the revised rules, the ICC trial chamber has the power to allow an accused person who has extraordinary duties, such as a head of state, to be excused from attending trial. The defence lawyer would then represent the accused in court.
“Rule 134quater, adopted by consensus by the Assembly of States Parties at its 12th Session on November 27, last year allows Mr Ruto to be away and be represented by counsel,” said Said Mr Khan.
“The duties of Mr Ruto as the Deputy President amount to extra ordinary public duties warranting an excusal. An excusal is not a gift to Mr Ruto for person benefit. It is for the good of the office he occupies…the Trial Chamber has already found his duties amounts to extra ordinary duties. This still stands,” he added.
However, the prosecution led by lawyer Anton Stynberg and Mr Wilfred Nderitu representing the victims opposed Mr Ruto’s plea to be excused.
Mr Stynberg and Mr Nderitu argued that the role of the Deputy President was not clearly defined in the Constitution.
“He only does what the President mandates him to do which ranges from the extremely important to the extremely mundane…just because Mr Ruto is an important person does not mean everything he does is important,” Said Mr Stynberg.
“We submit that rule 134quater should only apply to Ruto when he is deputizing for the President or he has been given special assignment by the President,” he stressed.
Mr Nderitu on the other hand while speaking through a representatives, said granting Mr Ruto’s request will not be in the interest of victims, who are yearning to see him answer the serious charges that have been levelled against him.
“Mr Ruto should indeed justify why he needs to be away from trial. The request should therefore be rejected. Rule 134 quarter clearly states that decisions must be made in the interest of justice. This I believe includes the interest of the victims. They want to see Mr Ruto in court.”