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ICC: Kenya leader not excused from attending trial

The Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] ruled [judgment, PDF] Friday that Kenyan Deputy President William Ruto [ICC materials; JURIST news archive] must be present for most of his trial at The Hague, unanimously reversing [press release] the Trial Chamber's decision [text, PDF] to grant a conditional excusal from continuous physical presence. While the Trial Chamber enjoys discretion under Article 63(1) of the Rome Statute [text], which states that "[t]he accused shall be present during the trial," the Appeals Chamber determined that "such discretion is limited and must be exercised with caution." The Appeals Chamber concluded that the Trial Chamber exercised its discretion too broadly and that the excusal of an accused from physical presence should not become the rule. The Trial Chamber will be free, however, to make a new ruling that applies the criteria provided in the Appeals Chamber decision. Ruto will now be required to file requests in order to be excused from physical presence at trial, which are to be examined on a case-by-case basis and are not to be granted before alternative measures, such as a change in trial schedule, have been considered, or before being deemed necessary.

Ruto is on trial [JURIST report] for three counts of crimes against humanity allegedly committed in Kenya during the 2007-2008 post-election violence that led to the deaths of at least 1,100 people and the displacement of more than 600,000, making him the first senior serving politician to appear in an international court. The Deputy President pleaded not guilty [JURIST report] to the charges in September. Earlier that month, Kenya's National Assembly approved a motion [JURIST report] to leave the ICC in response to Ruto's trial and the trial of President Uhuru Kenyatta, which is scheduled to begin in November. The ICC decided to continue with the trials despite the vote, having rejected [JURIST report] a request by Kenyan officials to move the trials to Kenya or Tanzania in July.

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