NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 18 – Deputy President William Ruto took exactly three minutes on Wednesday, to discount claims by the International Criminal Court’s Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) that Kenya was not cooperating with the court.
Ruto also took the brief period to remind the court that he had voluntarily taken himself to The Hague for trial, as proof of cooperation by the government.
This came up during submissions by both the OTP and the Defence on why the court should or should not go on private sessions during the entire trial period.
Ruto, who is at the court on charges of murder, deportation and persecution, told the judges that Kenya was not a Banana Republic and he had subjected himself to trial because he believes in the rule of law.
“The fact that a democratically elected Deputy President of Kenya is here is a confirmation that Kenya believes in the rule of law and belongs to the community of nations that are civilised,” said Ruto. “It does not suggest the contrary.”
The Deputy President addressed the court for the first time since taking his plea and sought permission to clarify the position as the defence was making submissions on the effect of the move by Kenya’s Parliament to withdraw from the Rome Statute that establishes the ICC.
Ruto’s lead counsel Karim Khan had also told the court that Kenya had not become a pariah State as a result of the cases at the ICC.
Khan maintained that Kenya was cooperating with the ICC and that “quite frankly I don’t know what other county would do this.”
“Kenya is not being dragged, kicking and screaming as a naughty school child, to the ICC. The Deputy President sits behind me not coercively but because of his belief in the rule of law. Now these are inconvenient truths,” argued Khan.
Khan further observed that the OTP and even the court’s registry had a presence in Kenya and were operating in the country which showed that the country was cooperating with the court.
In May this year, Attorney General Githu Muigai slammed the OTP for constantly complaining about Kenya’s ‘non-cooperation’ saying it was just an excuse to cover up the weaknesses in the prosecution case.
Muigai, who was at the time speaking at a forum discussing whether the ICC was a blessing to Kenya or a curse, said Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda’s claims of non-cooperation were unnecessary because the government had already assisted her in 35 of her 37 requests for assistance.
He noted that assistance in the remaining two requests had not been honoured by Kenya because she had failed to follow the laid down legal procedures in pursuing them.
“When Ocampo (former ICC Prosecutor) came to Kenya, he was not escorted by a United Nations convoy. He was invited by the Kenyan government, given diplomatic protection and then went to the Nairobi National Park and adopted a cheetah,” retorted Muigai.
“Is that what you would call non-cooperation?”