Ruto’s ICC trial adjourned to Nov 21

The trial of Deputy President William Ruto at the ICC will resume on November 21 for two weeks after adjourning Friday.

However, Mr Ruto will not be in the courtroom on the day after the chamber granted him excusal from being present on the first day the trial resumes as his presence would be required in Kenya when President Kenyatta attends the 3rd African-Arab summit in Kuwait.

“Our decision is that we will resume on November 21 with the hope of completing the testimony of the two witnesses by November 29,” the presiding judge Chile Eboe-Osuji who read out the brief ruling said.

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The prosecution will choose among witnesses a lady witness 469, 535 and Prof Herve Marpeu, the expert witness who is expected to give a historical background to the conflict between the Kalenjin and the Kikuyu in the Rift Valley.

“As for the excusal request the chamber would grant the request for the 21st November. Reasons will follow later,” the judge said.

The 3rd African-Arab summit takes place in Kuwait from November 18 to 20. The defence counsel David Hooper had requested for excusal of Mr Ruto on November 21 to enable President Kenyatta return to the country.

According to Mr Hooper, though the summit ends on November 20, President Kenyatta would not be in a position to travel back to Nairobi on time to allow Mr Ruto leave for The Hague.

However, the prosecution opposed the excusal request, with the senior trial lawyer Anton Steynberg stating that Mr Ruto’s absence from the court was becoming the general rule rather than the exception, contrary to the ruling of the ICC Appeals Chamber.

“The only way to determine whether Mr Ruto’s absence is the rule rather than the exception is to look at the days he has been away cumulatively,” said Mr Steynberg.

ABSENT FOR 12 DAYS

According to Mr Steynberg, Mr Ruto has been absent from the court for a total of 12 days since the Appeals judges set the criteria for excusal.

The Appeals judges had in their judgement of October 25 stated that the accused could be excused from the trials under ‘exceptional circumstances’ after exhausting the other available options of rescheduling or adjournment of the trial.

However, the Appeals judges failed to define the boundaries of what makes an exceptional circumstance, a loophole the defence has been exploiting to excuse Mr Ruto from the courtroom. Instead, that determination was left at the discretion of the trial judges, who in the first place had by majority granted Mr Ruto “blanket excusal”.

According to Mr Ibrahim Tommy, the executive director of the Center for Accountability and Rule of Law (CARL), Sierra Leone, while it would not have been possible to “provide a comprehensive list of circumstances that would amount to ‘exceptional’ it would have been a bit helpful if they (Appeals Chamber) had provided some general guidance as to what amounts to “exceptional”.

“Exceptional circumstances, for example, could include serious breach of state security, serious natural disasters, medical reasons, etc,” said Mr Tommy.

Mr Ruto’s co-accused, Joshua Sang was on the other hand denied a day off the courtroom on November 1 to attend his daughter’s graduation, with the judges arguing that his situation did not meet the threshold for an exceptional circumstance.-nation.co.ke

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