21 November 2013

Kenya: Call Him 'Mr Kenyatta', Order ICC Judges

Photo: Uhuru Kenyatta
President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy William Ruto during Kenya's Labour Day celebrations.

Nairobi — The International Criminal Court Trial Chamber V(a) has warned the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) against referring to President Uhuru Kenyatta simply as 'Kenyatta'.

Presiding Judge Chile Eboe-Osuji directed the Prosecution on Thursday to have some decorum and refer to him as Mr Kenyatta.

This came up after Deputy President William Ruto's lawyer Karim Khan accused the Prosecution's Senior Trial Attorney Anton Steynberg of spite and disrespect towards the Kenyan Head of State.

Khan argued that the President was not an accused in the case against his deputy William Ruto and Joshua arap Sang and should therefore be showed some degree of respect.

"We also disparaged and deprecate the rudeness of the prosecution to refer to the President of Kenya as 'Kenyatta'. Mr Ruto should be called 'Mr Ruto'; we are not insisting upon His Excellency but it does smack of spite and we do deprecate it not only the tone but the lack of necessity for it," argued Khan.

In his defense Steynberg said that he was just trying to economise words because he had referred to the President as Mr Uhuru Kenyatta in the first mention.

He explained that he did not think it would be necessary to keep using titles while referring to him in the application.

"I should point out that Mr Ruto and Mr Kenyatta were addressed as such initially and then by way of shorthand were referred to by surname so it was a question of economy," he argued.

Judge Eboe-Osuji however told him that it was improper to refer to the two Kenyan leaders using their surnames only.

He explained that the Chamber expected both the Prosecution and the Defence to be civil in the manner in which they conducted the ICC proceedings adding that common titles were to be used at all times.

The Judge also said that the directive referred to both oral and written submissions.

"You can say Chile Eboe-Osuji the first time and subsequently Mr Eboe-Osuji repeatedly. That is the convention; let's follow it," he said.

Khan had also accused the prosecution of wasting the Court's time saying that they based their application to have Ruto's Thursday excusal from the Court cancelled on rumours.

The Prosecution's application was further thrown out after the Prosecution admitted that it was moot.

The OTP said on Wednesday that it appeared that Ruto was to lead a Kenyan delegation at the Assembly of State parties at The Hague while President Uhuru Kenyatta was still away in Kuwait.

The Prosecutor argued that this invalidated Ruto's excusal, which had been granted to allow him carry out his presidential functions while Kenyatta was away as the Kenyan Constitution bars both the President and Deputy from being out of the country at the same time.

But it emerged that Bensouda might have jumped the gun because Ruto left Kenya on Thursday morning and is scheduled to arrive at The Hague in the evening so as to make it to Court on Friday, as directed.

Meanwhile, the President arrived back to Kenya on Wednesday evening paving the way for Ruto's departure.

The Prosecution added that they wrote to the Defence requesting for clarification on whether or not Ruto would be at The Hague while the President was still away but this information was not made available to them.

Khan however maintained that the Defence had already told the Chamber that it would be difficult for Ruto to be at The Hague while Kenyatta was in Kuwait.

"In those circumstances for the Prosecution to have relied once again on back room gossip is really lamentable. This is an overworked Defence team; we have very important matters to grasp," said Khan.

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