, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 24 – The International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor now wants a decision that allows Kenya’s Deputy President William Ruto to skip court sessions during his trial overturned.
Fatou Bensouda on Monday applied for leave to appeal the decision, saying all accused persons should be treated equally and Ruto should not be exempted from attending all the sessions.
“All accused must be treated equally before the law. This is a fundamental pillar of the fairness of proceedings before the court, as acknowledged by the majority. The two issues affect the fair conduct of the proceedings because they raise the question whether an individual accused of very serious crimes holding certain official functions may be excused from continuous presence at the trial, while others are not,” Bensouda asserted.
She argued that Ruto should not be allowed to skip sessions simply because he holds an executive position in the government which she said was not reason enough to give him different treatment from other accused persons.
She said the statute provides that only under ‘exceptional circumstances’ the chamber can excuse an accused from being present during trials, explaining the excuse given by Ruto did not fit in the unique situation that such a request would be granted.
The prosecutor argued that if Ruto was allowed to skip some sessions it would undermine the fair conduct of proceedings since his co-accused Joshua arap Sang will be physically present during the trial.
“This test necessarily excludes most persons from being excused and thereby leads to a difference in treatment of accused persons. For instance, in this case, the majority ruled that Ruto was excused from his continuous presence at the trial because he holds the “office of the executive deputy president of a State.”
This does not apply to Ruto’s co-accused, Sang, who accordingly would not be entitled to the same treatment under the law.
The dissenting Judge specifically pointed out that “all persons shall be equal before courts and tribunals and no accused should be accorded privileged treatment… Ruto should not be given a different legal status on the basis of his personal position as Deputy President of the Republic of Kenya,” she explained
According to Bensouda, the decision of the trial chamber was also a risk that a trial that is largely conducted in the absence of the accused can later be nullified by the Appeals Chamber.
The trial chamber last Tuesday allowed Ruto to skip some sessions and outlined key trial sessions that will require his physical presence.
Some of the sessions that required his physical presence include the opening statements of all parties to the case, judgement and sentencing sessions.
The chamber however said the prosecution could appeal if it desired.