, NAIROBI, Kenya, Sept 30 – Judges in the case facing President Uhuru Kenyatta at the International Criminal Court (ICC) have ordered that he appears physically before them for his status conference on October 8.
They declined his request to reschedule the conference to a more convenient date, “after consultations with the parties,” for the reason that his trial had been scheduled to start on October 7 nevertheless.
“The chamber does not find merit in the defence’s submission regarding the accused’s engagements having been planned prior to the convening of the status conference,” they stated in their ruling.
They also declined his request to be allowed to appear before them via video link insisting that the status conference represented a, “critical juncture,” not only for him but for the victims of the crimes against humanity for which he is facing charges.
“The chamber notes that the matters to be discussed at the status conference directly impact the interests of the accused, of victims and of witnesses,” they adjudged.
President Kenyatta had told the court that he would be unable to honour the chamber’s summons to appear before them on October 8 as he was to chair an East African Community infrastructure meeting in Kampala on the same day and was scheduled to celebrate Uganda’s independence the next day.
He had therefore applied for an adjournment of the proceedings or to have his counsel represent him.
And in the event the chamber allowed his request to have the date of the status conference changed, he requested that he be allowed to attend it via video link given the time it would take to travel to the Hague would interfere with his, “extra-ordinary duties,” as Kenya’s Head of State.
Reasons the chamber adjudged to be of no, “merit,” in Tuesday’s ruling.
Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda and the Legal Representative for Victims (LRV) Fergal Gaynor had stated that they did not object to the date of the October 8 status conference being moved as long as it was not for long.
But they did insist that he be required to be physically present at the court with the victims’ lawyer arguing that it had been three years since he last did so.
“The LRV submits that no other accused before an international or hybrid court or tribunal has ‘benefitted from a regime of provisional release which was even remotely favourable’ as that of the accused in this case,” the chamber captured in its ruling.
Trial Chamber V(b) summoned President Kenyatta for a status conference on October 8 and vacated his October 7 provisional trial date after Bensouda notified the court that she still did not have sufficient evidence to successfully prosecute him.
She has however insisted that the charges against him stand until his government, “fully co-operates with the court.”
President Kenyatta’s defence has on the other hand applied to have the charges against him dropped for the reason that Bensouda herself admitted that she would have dropped the charges had the circumstances been different.
Should President Kenyatta honour the summons, he would be the first sitting Head of State to appear before the court.