7 February 2013

Kenya: Uhuru May Not Travel for Hague Hearing

JUBILEE presidential candidate Uhuru Kenyatta is considering skipping the status conference at the Hague next week and instead participating by video link.

The ICC has asked Uhuru and three others Kenyans to attend the Status Hearing on February 14 to discuss conditions for the trial. They have been given the option of going in person or participating by video link.

The status conference will be streamed live on the ICC website next Thursday.

The Deputy Prime Minister, former Civil Service boss Francis Muthaura, his Jubilee running mate William Ruto and broadcaster Joshua arap Sang are charged with crimes against humanity following the post-election violence in 2007/8. Their trials are due to start on April 10 and 11, the same date as the scheduled possible run-off of the presidential election.

Yesterday Uhuru held consultations with some of his lawyers and close aides to decide the best way forward.

No final decision was arrived at but, according to multiple sources, most of those who spoke advised Uhuru skip the status conference but ask his running mate William Ruto to instead travel to the Hague.

The intention is to demonstrate that it is not necessary for Uhuru and Ruto to both be at The Hague at the same time. It will also show that their trials can also be held online if Uhuru is elected president.

According to The Rome Statute, the accused person is required to physically attend all sessions of his trial, or when ordered to do so by the judges.

However, for next week's status conference, the judges gave the four Kenyans the option of participating in the discussions through a video link.

"Given that these issues (to be discussed) impact directly on the accused, the Chamber considers this to be a hearing requiring the accused's attendance and the accused are ordered to attend the status conference, either in person or via video link," the judges said on Tuesday.

"Sang is definitely travelling (to the Hague) if he gets the visa and cost of ticket. I will tell you about the other (Ruto) later," said their lawyer Katwa Kigen yesterday.

By last evening, it was not clear whether Uhuru's co-accused, Francis Muthaura, would go to the Hague or opt for the video-link.

The status conference in the case against Uhuru and Muthaura will kick of at 10.30am local time while that the hearing for Ruto and Sang will start at 3.30pm.

During the conference, the judges will lead discussion into whether there is need to amend the conditions of the summonses issued by the Pre-Trial Chamber in 2011.

The parties will address practical, financial and legal matters related to their attendance at trial, including their accommodation.

The prosecution, the victims' lawyers and the defence had until last evening to make submissions on issues related to the commencement of trial from which the judges will draw up the agenda for the status conferences.

Some issues likely to be raised by the defence and the prosecution have already emerged.

Uhuru's lawyers this week challenged the confirmation of the charges against him as Witness Number Four has been dropped by the Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda. Uhuru wants his case referred back to the Pre-Trial Chamber to re-examine the charges against him.

Muthaura has asked the judges to reprimand a member of the prosecution team for disclosing the identity of some defence witnesses to some prosecution witnesses.

Uhuru and Ruto have also claimed that the prosecution and some international organisations has been bribing witnesses to give evidence against them.

Last week, Ruto said he would ask the ICC to adjust its timetable if Uhuru is elected president so that they could organise the smooth running of both Kenya and the cases.

Bensouda on her part may seek to tighten the condition requiring the suspects to have no contact directly or indirectly with any witness.

She may ask the judges to reinforce the condition that the four refrain from influencing a witness or interfering with a witness.

Bensouda has previously complained that her witnesses have been intimidated or compromised by associates of the suspects.

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