President Uhuru Kenyatta has once again asked the ICC to reconsider its decision and allow him to skip his trial sessions except for the opening, closing and delivery of judgment so as to enable him carry out his state duties.
In a fresh application last evening, Uhuru told the court to allow him to participate via video-link in respect to all other hearings that his presence is required. The application supersedes an earlier one in which Uhuru had asked to be allowed to attend his trial via video-link. The court is yet to decide on this request.
Yesterday's application çame just hours after the court had allowed Deputy President William Ruto a week to attend to the aftermath of the Westgate mall terror attack. The court made its decision after verbal presentations by Ruto's lead counsel Karim Khan. Ruto's case was due to continue yesterday but will now resume after a week.
"President Kenyatta is satisfied that he will be able to adequately manage his defence by delegating responsibility to his legal team who are in receipt of full instructions," his lawyer Steven Kay said.
Kay said Ruto's excusal was an indicator that Uhuru can also be excused in order to continue with his responsibility as president. By insisting that he be present throughout the entire trial, the court would be denying Kenyans the much needed effective government.
"The people of Kenya were fully informed about the ICC proceedings when they elected President Kenyatta to lead the nation, and, having done so, they have a legitimate expectation that their country's democracy should be respected by the wider international community," Uhuru's application states.
Saying that international criminal trials are complex, lengthy and heavily rely upon the availability of modern technology to record and publicise the proceedings worldwide, Kay said his client would be able to fully participate in the proceedings without necessarily being in court.
"President Kenyatta is fully aware that he will be able to follow the proceedings through Transcend and access live transcripts in Kenya through his legal team without being physically present in court," Kay added.
Uhuru's request follows a joint application by five African countries who want to be enjoined as amicus curiae (friends of the court) in a decision of the Ruto trial judges' decision to allow him to miss some of the trial sessions.
The chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda has appealed against this decision and until the appeal is concluded, Ruto had been instructed to personally be present during the trial hearing which started last week. A decision on Bensouda's appeal is expected in the next few days.
"The Defence endorses the position taken in the Joint Amicus Curiae Submissions that the "mechanistic requirement of continuous presence at the seat of the Court - in the case of an elected head of state or deputy head of state who cooperates with the Court and who appears on a summons - would deprive the electorate of the best government they are entitled to", Uhuru's request reads.
Uhuru's trial on crimes against humanity charges is scheduled to start on November 12.