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ICC rejects Ocampo three deferment plea

NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 13 – Eldoret MP William Ruto, radio presenter Joshua arap Sang and Tinderet MP Henry Kosgey remained on the losing end after the International Criminal Court (ICC) rejected their request to extend the date of their confirmation of charges hearings.

According to a statement from the court, reasons given by their defence teams were unfounded and did not warrant the court’s extension of the confirmation of charges hearings scheduled for September 1.

“The Single Judge does not believe that the reasons furnished by the defence teams in their applications reveal the urgency for taking this type of action few days before the start of the confirmation hearing. The Judge disagrees with the arguments in view of the fact that all of the defence’ complaints turned out to be unfounded allegations,” the statement indicated.

She threw the challenge to the suspects saying the complaints raised were to be blamed on the defences’ organisation approach, “The bulk of the Defences’ arguments go to the heart of its organisation strategy.”

Judge Ekaterina Trendafilova who delivered the ruling said the explanations given by the three suspects were also not satisfactory as she cited them as a means of delaying the court process.

She argued that they had the best lawyers as they had claimed to the court and she expected them to act professionally.

“She wishes to express her dissatisfaction with the manner in which the defence teams approach the upcoming confirmation hearing, knowing that the suspects have chosen their lawyers among those highly qualified in the field.”

Judge Trendafilova further argued that during the initial appearances in April 2011 she announced that the time set for the confirmation hearings was sufficient enough for the defence to prepare.

At the time, she stressed on the critical consideration of adhering to the court calendar strictly to avoid interfering with the ICC processes unnecessarily.

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“The defence was well aware and put on sufficient notice for almost five months that the confirmation hearing will take place on September 1 2011, unless there is an urgent need to decide otherwise,” she asserted.

Judge Trendafilova also contradicted their arguments in which they claimed that they had logistical challenges that made it difficult for them to transfer evidence via email or by mail.

She said they should have resorted to other means or informed the registry which could have assisted them through for instance organising for the visas of the parties involved in their case. She said the registry had not been informed of any such shortcomings.

Based on the explanation that the suspects had huge volumes of evidence to deal with, Judge Trendafilova said it shouldn’t be an excuse since the court likewise is handling two cases with limited staff as she also questioned the defences’ readiness for the case.

“It comes as a surprise that the defence invokes this argument which leaves the Single Judge with a sole conclusion namely, that there is a lack of proper organisation on the part of the defence,” she declared.

In thier quest to have the September 1 extended, the defence teams of Mr Ruto, Kosgey and Sang also told the court that the Kenyan government had not responded to their requests to obtain information which they wanted to use in their defence.

The judge however said the court could not use that to change the date of confirmation of charges of hearings, “the defence has not provided the Chamber with any response from these bodies, which shows that their requests are yet to be granted; In the absence of a prove to that effect, the Single Judge cannot delay the proceedings on the basis of hypothetical potential responses from the entities approached.”

The argument of the defence that it lacked offices to prepare for the confirmation hearings was also not considered as the judge explained it was not their right to get an office from the court and it was also ‘not mandatory’.

The defence also complained that it was unable to use the e-court system but Judge Trendafilova said despite the court offering training sessions for the team, only one of the defence members attended the training group in April and June this year.

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The defence had also asked for more time alleging that internet connection in Kenya was slow.

The judge dismissed the allegation saying that the Registry was never informed and that there was an ICC team from in the country which never encountered such problems, “Chief ICT Section was in Kenya for four days in early July and the internet connection was very good with the ability to connect to the ICC email system.”

After laying out the reasons as to why the court should defer the confirmation hearings, the defence warned the court that it would be depriving the suspects their right to get ready to defend themselves against the evidence presented against them should it refuse to extend the time.

The judge however termed the argument as baseless since the reasons they had given were unjustified, “A meaningful or an effective exercise of a right does not mean abusing the exercise of such right. The information available before the Chamber makes clear that what the defence teams are calling for cannot but be described as an abuse of the rights referred to in article 67(1) of the Rome Statute,” the statement indicated.

This means the three suspects in the first case will start the process of objecting to the charges on September 1.

Postmaster General Hussein Ali, Head of Civil Service Amb Francis Muthaura and Deputy Prime Minister are scheduled to appear for their confirmation of charges hearings on September 21.

ICC judges will rule if the six have a case to answer by December this year for those in the first case and in January for the second batch of  suspects.

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