Uhuru seeks absolute excusal from Court presence as Ruto submits waiver


Kenya: President Uhuru Kenyatta has formally applied to Judges at The Hague to be excused from physical presence in Court despite his trial having been postponed indefinitely only last week.

This even as his Deputy William Ruto submitted a signed waiver authorising his trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC) to proceed in his absence. “I hereby restate and confirm that I voluntarily, knowingly and unequivocally and without reservation waive my right to my own presence during my trial,” Ruto pledged.

“By doing so, I hereby forgo every complaint and every appeal against any natural consequence of my voluntary absence from the Courtroom,” he added In his application, Kenyatta’s defence lawyers maintained that the President is mandated to fulfil ‘extraordinary public duties’ at the highest national level and therefore should be allowed to skip Court hearings. His lawyers Stephen Kay and Gillian Higgins pointed out that Kenya is under security threat from terrorists which requires round the clock presence of the country’s chief executive. “This war has security implications not only for Kenya but also for the entire East Africa region,” Kay wrote in the application dated Friday last week.

“The President of Kenya, who in November last year was elected to the Chairmanship of the East African Community, must also deal with this additional security threat to the region,” The lawyers also submitted that Uhuru chairs all Cabinet meetings, the National Security Council and coordinates ministries which require his presence in the country.

The lawyers however said that presence via video link which was also approved by the Assembly of State Parties last year would be an inadequate alternative measure to Uhuru’s excusal. “The use of such a measure, which would require Mr Kenyatta to be present at the video link facility, would disconnect him from his role as President and Head of State and prevent him from fulfilling his extraordinary duties,” Last week, the three judge bench postponed indefinitely the trial of Uhuru that was due to begin on 5 next month.

The bench instead ordered that a status conference be held on the same day to discuss, among others, Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda’s request to adjourn the trial for three months to enable her undertake further investigations in the case. Already, Ruto who is the second in command within the jubilee administration has been excused from most of the Court sittings.

The judges however gave a total of nine conditions that the DP must meet in order to be granted absence from proceedings. He will still be required to attend when victims present their views to the court, and during closing statements. His presence in the courtroom is also required for the judgement, and if applicable, at any subsequent sentencing or reparation hearings. He must also attend all hearings during the first five days of court sessions following a judicial recess.

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