NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 26 – The International Criminal Court (ICC) on Monday described a bid to collect two million signatures to petition The Hague-based court to delay the trial of Deputy Prime Uhuru Kenyatta as futile.
ICC Spokesperson Fadi Abdallah argued that third parties were not at liberty to petition the court to delay the case, and certainly, not for political reasons.
“ICC is purely judicial. Political decisions cannot be taken into consideration when you are speaking about a judicial process,” he asserted.
On Friday, allies of Kenyatta at a meeting of the Gikuyu, Embu and Meru Association said they would collect two million signatures to lobby the court to delay trial until after the country’s general elections, which the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission has set for March 2013.
Abdallah further explained that only the parties in the process; the prosecution, the defence and the victims can request the court to extend the trials but under very specific reasons.
Additionally he said: “The request for any postponement of the deadline can only be done by the parties that are in the proceedings, not by external parties that are not present before the judges.”
Abdallah also pointed out that witnesses who want to recant their earlier testimony can only do so before the ICC judges as the court cannot take into account any statements made outside the chamber.
He however warned that admitting to giving false testimony can lead to punishment as provided by the Rome Statute, which prescribes a five-year jail term and a fine. The same applies to people who coerce witnesses to retract their testimonies.
A recent posting on the Internet showed an alleged witness renouncing his earlier testimony but there was no independent verification of the validity, since all witnesses are still confidential. At the time, the ICC declined to comment on the posting but warned that action would be taken against anyone interfering with witnesses.
The ICC spokesman further said the presidency of the court will soon meet to set up a Trial Chamber for the Kenyan cases, although there is no timeline of creating the chamber.
Once constituted, the Trial Chamber will come up with a calendar that will guide proceedings during the trial stage.
It will consider all logistical matters that will ensure the smooth running of the process bearing in mind how witnesses will be catered for including their protection.
The Trial Chamber will also give time to the defence and prosecution to prepare their evidence and witnesses.
It will further decide on the number of victims to participate at the trail stage including appointment of their legal representatives.
According to Abdallah, the court may decide to re-hire Sureta Chana and Morris Anyah who represented 560 victims during the confirmation of charges hearings or someone else.
Some of the victims will continue participating, while others may be dropped and new ones could be allowed in the process on the two cases before the court.
After establishing the timelines, the Trial Chamber will then issue a notice to the four accused when the trials will begin asking for their presence at The Hague-based court.
Abdallah further warned that a warrant of arrest can be issued to any of the four accused if they defy the ICC summonses to appear.
“The Kenyans involved in the proceedings have always cooperated with the court. I don’t think we should expect anything other than that, but in case there is a person who refuses to appear, then the ICC can issue a warrant of arrest against that person,” he cautioned.
While calling for postponement of the impending ICC trials on Friday, assistant ministers Cecily Mbarire and Ferdinand Waititu on Friday advised Kenyatta not to travel to The Hague for the trials.
Kenyatta, William Ruto, Joshua arap Sang and Francis Muthaura are still waiting the ruling by the Appeals Chamber on their challenge of the court’s jurisdiction to try them. They argue that there was an organisational structure to commit crimes against humanity during the 2008 post election violence in Kenya to warrant such charges at the ICC.
Abdallah said the Appeals Chamber can reject the appeal or ask the Pre-Trial Chamber to redefine its ruling on the organisational structure which perpetrated the crimes.
However, according to Abdallah, the appellate process will not stop the trial as both the appeal and trial can go on simultaneously pending the appeal’s decision.
Abdallah also warned people threatening witnesses and victims saying that the court will prosecute them but underlined that it is the government’s primary responsibility to provide security for its citizens.
He appreciated Kenya’s cooperation with the court saying the court heavily relies on the 120 member states, with 33 of them being African countries.