Ignore Africa request on Ruto, says Bensouda
International Criminal Court chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda has asked the court to ignore submissions to excuse Deputy President William Ruto from attending all the court sessions.
Five African countries have appealed to have Ruto excused from continual presence at The Hague.
Bensouda said the arguments by Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi and Eritrea are baseless and have no place in the Rome Statute.
She appealed a decision by the Ruto trial chamber, led by Chile Eboe-Osuji, which excused Ruto from continuous presence in his trial.
The appeals chamber suspended the order pending the determination of Bensouda’s appeal.
“The court is an independent legal institution and does not render its decision to encourage the ratification of the Rome Statute by nonstate parties,” she said.
Bensouda said the fact that Ruto holds a “high government office” is no exceptional circumstance as argued by the five countries.
She said Articles 27(1) and 23(1) of the Rome Statute are clear that official positions are irrelevant in ICC trials.
Bensouda doubted whether one of the five countries—Burundi—was actually party to the submission.
She said although the filing was submitted on September 17, Burundi had on September 18 written to the court seeking more time to make the filing.
The application which was filed on September 17 was signed by Rwanda’s Attorney General Busingye Johnstone on behalf of his Tanzanian colleague Frederick Mwita, Uganda’s Foreign Affairs minister Sam Kutesa, his Burundian counterpart Kavakure Laurent and Eritrea’s ambassador to the AU Girma Asmeron.
“The wording of this letter appears to indicate that Burundi was unaware that observations had been filed a day earlier, on September 17 on its behalf.
This brings into question whether Burundi, a state party, joins in these observations,” she said. In their joint submissions, the five had asked ICC judges to go slow on the “mechanistic requirement” that an accused be continually present in trial.