NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 1 – Uhuru Kenyatta is facing a major test in his tenure as Kenya’s President after judges at the International Criminal Court (ICC) demanded his appearance at The Hague next week.
The judges insist the Head of State must attend the status conference scheduled to take place on Wednesday next week, in person.
Following the order issued late Tuesday, President Kenyatta’s lawyers and advisors will be weighing on the impact of him making an appearance in The Netherlands, or failing to attend before making an informed decision.
READ ICC judges direct Uhuru to be in court on Oct 8
“He (the President) has to decide what is in the best interest of Kenya,” said Professor Macharia Munene of the United States International University, USIU.
Capital FM News has learnt that President Kenyatta’s lawyers were scheduled to hold a meeting later Wednesday to deliberate on the matter together with his political advisors and other technocrats.
President Kenyatta has previously assured the judges of his full cooperation in the trial stemming from the violence that followed the disputed presidential election of 2007.
He is accused of funding or planning the chaos that left more than 1,100 people dead and nearly 300,000 more uprooted from their homes. He denies the charges, also facing his deputy William Ruto and a former radio journalist Joshua arap Sang. The latter are fighting the charges in a trial that is on the tail end.
In ordering the Head of State’s appearance, the judges said they were not satisfied with the reasons given by his lawyers who indicated that he is scheduled to hold a key regional infrastructure meeting and attend Uganda’s Independence Day.
The ICC judges do not see this as enough reason, instead observing that the status conference will be held on the same day when President Kenyatta’s trial was initially set to start, and that he cannot have scheduled other engagements.
The judges have also declined to reschedule the status conference, as requested by his lawyers who wanted it done via video link.
Presiding judge Kuniko Ozaki however, held a dissenting opinion on President Kenyatta’s request which he felt should have been granted.
“In my view, the role of the accused during a status conference is different from that during the trial, I consider that the matters to be discussed, although of fundamental importance pertain to procedural direction of the proceedings rather than to evidentiary issues for which the physical presence of the accused may be of particular benefit,” he stated, adding that there are “factors weighing in favour of permitting the accused’s attendance at the status conference to be effected by way of video link as an alternative to physical presence.”
The opening of President Kenyatta’s trial has been adjourned on several occasions, after Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said she lacks sufficient evidence to try him, often accusing his government of declining to surrender what she considers key evidence in the case.