, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 23 – International Criminal Court judges have now suspended President Uhuru Kenyatta’s trial indefinitely and instead scheduled a status conference next month to discuss the next step.
A ruling issued by the judges late on Thursday stated that the status conference will be held on February 5, the same day the President’s trial was initially scheduled to kick off.
“To facilitate the fair and expeditious conduct of proceedings, the Chamber considers it appropriate to convene a status conference, pursuant to Rule 132(2) of the rules, to discuss the issues raised by the parties in relation to the prosecution request and the defence response, to be held on Wednesday, 5 February 2014,” the judges ordered. President Kenyatta is however, not required to attend the status conference in person.
The conference will mainly discuss an application lodged by ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda in October last year that the trial be postponed for three months due to lack of sufficient evidence on her part to sustain charges.
In her request, the prosecutor had stated that she wanted more time to “undertake additional investigative steps.”
The unanimous order issued by the judges on Thursday said the February 5 status conference will also provide an opportunity for the defence to argue their petition in which they want Kenyatta’s case terminated altogether.
The confidential request by Kenyatta’s lawyers was filed on January 13, urging the judges to dismiss the prosecutor’s request and instead “terminate the proceedings under Article 64 (2) of the Statute on the grounds of insufficiency of evidence.”
Even though concurring with judges Robert Fremr and Presiding judge Kuniko Ozaki, judge Chile Eboe-Osuji penned a separate opinion saying “It is right to vacate the date for trial in the circumstances presented, without prejudice to the new issues raised by the defence.”
He argued that vacating the trial’s commencement date, on the application of the prosecutor, is a matter “quite separate from the question of whether or not the case should be terminated, on the application of the defence.
He proposed that a public hearing should have been held before the status conference due to the interest the trial had elicited.
“I am, however, of the view that due to both the public significance that this case has acquired and the concerns raised by the defence, it would have been more appropriate to hold a public hearing prior to the decision to vacate the date set for trial,” the presiding judge said.
He argued that he firmly believes that the issue of vacating the existing trial date was separate from the issue of whether or not to terminate the case at the request of the defence. “I am also of the view that a new date should have been set, in this decision, for the commencement of trial; without prejudice to the request for termination presented by the defence for a separate decision in the meantime.”