NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 27 – Deputy President William Ruto’s trial will continue on Wednesday next week after Trial Chamber V (a) saw it fit that he be present for an interdenominational prayer service on Tuesday.
“The chamber believes that that service is an important event aimed at national reconciliation and healing given what had occurred. We note that recognition of such events is consistent with the motivations of even the Rome Statute,” Presiding Judge Chile Eboe-Osuji said.
Ruto’s trial which was initially scheduled to adjourn on October 4 will then continue to October 11, “except for October 9 due to other hearings to take place in other ICC cases in ICC premises,” the chamber ruled.
The Deputy President had initially requested that the adjournment be extended to October 14 to allow him attend high-level security meetings following September 21 terrorist attack of the Westgate shopping mall.
“Mr Ruto will be here whenever the court require him to be here. That must be the starting position but your honour it is our application that in the unique circumstances pertaining at the moment and given the appeal’s chamber decision rejecting the application to lift suspensive effect we do ask that the case be adjourned further,” Ruto’s defence counsel Karim Khan had submitted.
He explained that Ruto would be attending a Security Council meeting on Friday during which he and President Uhuru Kenyatta would receive a progress report on the ongoing forensic activities at the Westgate.
On Saturday, Khan said, the Cabinet security sub-committee will be receiving a forensic report from the British, Israeli and Germans at whose presentation Ruto would be expected to be present.
The final forensic report and recommendations on how to keep terror plots from succeeding in future, Khan revealed, is expected on Monday and would require the President, his Deputy and the Cabinet Secretaries for the interior, defence and foreign affairs to be present.
Khan went on explain that Ruto is also set to address an inter-denominational prayer service at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre on Tuesday should he be granted leave by the chamber.
Come Wednesday, Khan said, Ruto was to chair a combined sitting of the Senate and National Assembly and chart the legislative agenda where terrorism is concerned going forward.
And on Thursday and Friday, Khan said, Ruto was to hold consultative meetings with the President on the security situation in the country following the killing of 67 people in the four-day Westgate siege.
Senior Trial Attorney Anton Steynberg however dismissed Khan’s argument, explaining that there would always be high-level meetings Ruto would be expected to attend as Deputy President and the trial cannot be held hostage because of it.
“Without in any way derogating from the seriousness of what happened in Kenya last week or the necessity of taking urgent and proper steps to ensure that this sort of tragedy does not occur again, my submission is that nothing that I’ve heard indicates that Mr. Ruto’s presence in Kenya is essential for that purpose.”
In Ruto’s defence, Khan pointed out that when President Kenyatta was scheduled to attend the 68th General Assembly of the United Nations in New York Ruto did not request an adjournment so he could return to the country and guarantee Kenyatta’s attendance.
Steynberg however brought the attention of the court Witness P0536’s fragile psychological state and contended that she risks further harm should the trial be adjourned for an extended period of time.
“And unfortunately it doesn’t just stop at this witness. There are other witnesses who are being lined-up who will also be inconvenienced and subjected to the same sort of stress,” he submitted.
On this submission Sang’s lawyer Katwa Kigen accused the Office of the Prosecutor of being insensitive to the psychological trauma that had been caused the victims of the Westgate terror attack.
“The psychological condition of the witness referred to by the prosecution I think on scales would weigh on preference that this accommodation be given to assist the Kenyans who are victims of this terrorism and the prejudice to the witness will not be irreparable,” Kigen argued.
The Legal Representative for the Victims Wilfred Nderitu was not present at the status conference as he returned to Kenya following Saturday’s attack but the Victims and Witnesses Unit declined to take a stand on the application.