, NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 22 – Even though the International Criminal Court has indicated that President Uhuru Kenyatta’s attendance will be required at a status conference on October 8, the judges did not specify the mode of ‘presence.’
An official at the court says an accused can appear either physically in person or through a video link.
“If the accused wishes to attend via video-link, he could make a request to the chamber, which the chamber would then rule on. At the moment no such request has been made by the accused and we cannot speculate on what the parties may request or what the Judge would decide,” ICC Outreach Coordinator in the Kenya office, Maria Kamara, said in response to our enquiries.
She added that in the absence of such an application, President Kenyatta is compelled to attend the status conference to be held on October 8, pursuant to the order of the chamber.
“Should Mr Kenyatta not attend the hearing, the chamber would assess the legal consequences of the accused not complying with an order of the court.”
During the excusal from continuous presence, President Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto were denied appearance via video link.
According to the order issued last Friday, there will be two status conferences – one on October 7 where a Kenyan official will be required to be present and the other a day later where President Kenyatta’s presence is required.
The judges explained that his presence was not mandatory in previous status conferences but said his presence was ‘necessary’ in the next one.
“While true that Mr Kenyatta has not been required to be present at recent status conferences, given the critical juncture of the proceedings and the matters to be considered, the Chamber deems that his presence is necessary,” a question and answer session released by the court indicates.
The judges based the decision on the summons issued that President Kenyatta ‘must attend all hearings at the court for which the chamber requires his presence’.
During the conference, the parties will discuss the status of cooperation between the prosecution and the Kenyan Government.
In the case against Deputy President Ruto and Journalist Joshua arap Sang, Ruto was excused from continuous attendance but ordered to be physically present at The Hague based court whenever requested by the judges.
Three witnesses who recanted their evidence and initially declined to testify have been giving evidence via video link from an undisclosed location in Nairobi over the past few weeks.
The thorny and controversial issue of having a sitting Head of State at the ICC in itself has over the past years erupted into a row between African Union countries and the court.
During a meeting in Addis Ababa last year, AU leaders asked for a deferral of the case against President Kenyatta.