Kenya’s Deputy President, William Samoei Ruto is being held accountable for the 2007-2008 post-election violence that occurred. Ruto is considered one of people who planned the crimes against President Kibaki’s supporters. The International Criminal Court is charging him with being criminally responsible as an indirect co perpetrator according to the Rome Statute article 25(3)(1)(a). The charges include murder (article 7(1)(a)), deportation/ forcible transfer (article 7(1)(d)), and persecution (article 7(1)(h).
The most recent issue in the case of Prosecutor v. William Samoei Ruto is what is the correct interpretation of Article 63(1) of the court statute. The statute deals with the absence of an accused person from attending trial. The statute questions when and if it is permissible for an accused person to be excused from being physically present at trial. Mr. Ruto asked for permission to be excused from the criminal proceedings against him at The Hague.
On June 18, 2013, the Trial Chamber allowed for Mr. Ruto to be excused from many parts of the trial. They granted his request to be excused and not physically present at the proceedings. The Appeals Chamber disagreed. The ICC President Judge Sang-Hyun Song said, “The absence of the accused can only take place in exceptional circumstances and must not become the rule.” The Appeals Chamber felt that the Trial Chamber’s decision was too broad. The Appeals Chamber said that the court should look for alternative means before they allow for the accused to miss significant parts of the trial against them. Some of these methods could include changing the schedule to enable the accused to attend, and an adjournment. The Appeals Chamber felt that a blanket excusal before the start of the trial is improper and instead, the court should be able to accept or deny each specific request of excusal by Mr. Ruto.
Should there be a blanket exception that allows an accused to be excused from the proceedings? Was the Appeals Chamber correct in reversing the prior decision? Should Mr. Ruto be required to attend all of the proceedings in The Hague?
I try to read up on this case as much as possible. Cut the guy some slack and let him be there for his country. It still amazes me how Kenya’s Deputy President, William Ruto, is still “cooperating” with the court. The African Union actually wants the ICC to suspend his proceedings and accuses them for targeting African leaders. Does the ICC not realize what Kenya is going through? Let me remind them. Their country is still trying to recover from the horrific attack that took place last month at the Westgate Mall and resulted in over 60 people dead. I would say this should fit under “exceptional circumstances”! I still believe he should be punished, but at least let him try to get his country somewhat back on track. The people of Kenya have even mentioned that Ruto is doing a great job with everything that has occurred.
I agree with the opinion of the Appeals Chamber. It is true that in the aftermath of the Westgate mall tragedy, Kenya is facing unspeakable adversity which may constitute an exceptional circumstance. However, it is important to consider several things: First, we should bear in mind the unthinkable atrocities stemming from the 2007-08 post-election violence that ICC is reviewing. Ruto is accused of playing a crucial role in these atrocities and is charged with crimes against humanity, including murder and persecution. Given this, as the Appeals Chamber states, the Trial Chamber should reschedule the proceedings or grant an adjournment until Ruto is able to attend. As a side note, Ruto’s requests to skip ICC hearings began well before the Nairobi tragedy, so the Trial Chamber should be inclined look suspiciously on his requests. Both as a general rule and in this case specifically, the Trial Chamber should severely restrict what circumstances it considers “exceptional” and, upon granting such requests, should first make reasonable efforts to reschedule proceedings in order to allow all material parties to appear.