ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda has asked the Appeals Chamber to reject Deputy President William Ruto’s request that his trial continues in his absence.
She has also warned Mr Ruto of arrest if he fails to turn up for trial at The Hague as is required under the Rome Statute, and affirmed by the Appeals Chamber.
“The Prosecution notes that Mr Ruto is not here voluntarily, but on compulsion of a summons, and risks arrest if he defaults. He is an accused person before the Court and, while presumed innocent, cannot expect that life will continue as normally,” she said.
This came on the eve of the status conference set for today, when the Trial Chamber will consider Mr Ruto’s request to be absent for another week.
The suspect wanted the appeals chamber to lift the suspensive effect and allow his trial to continue in his absence.
“If the trial continues without Mr Ruto and the appeal succeeds, the results will be difficult to correct and the consequences may be irreversible. Therefore, the request should be rejected,” Ms Bensouda says in her filing.
The trial of Mr Ruto and co-accused Joshua arap Sang for crimes against humanity is currently adjourned for a week subject to a review.
The adjournment was reached on Monday after Mr Ruto filed an urgent request to be excused from the trial for him to return to Nairobi to deal with the Westgate mall terror attack.
The chamber, while adjourning the trials for a week said, it had “no discretion to continue the trial in Mr Ruto’s absence” unless the Appeals Chamber suspends the earlier ruling that suspended his conditional absence from the trials.
Mr Ruto and Mr Sang will not attend today’s status conference but will be represented by their lawyers.
If the chamber holds that the one week he had been granted is sufficient, the Deputy President will be expected back in The Hague latest by Sunday for his trial to resume on Monday, September 30.
Witness 536, a woman who was also a victim of the Kiambaa church arson attack on January 1, 2008, will continue with her testimony. She is the first prosecution witness.
The witness had requested that she continues with her testimony even in the absence of Mr Ruto— a request the Trial Chamber said it could not grant based on the suspensive effect issued by the Appeals Chamber.
Meanwhile, the ICC Appeals Chamber has dismissed the applications by Ethiopia and Nigeria to be enjoined as friends of the court in the prosecution’s appeal against the ruling that excused Mr Ruto from continuously being at The Hague for his trial.
The judges said the requests would not be “desirable for the proper determination of the case” as they focus more on the subject of State cooperation.