ICC allows Kenya president to be absent from trial

ICC allows Kenya president to be absent from trial

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[JURIST] The International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website; JURIST backgrounder] ruled [decision, PDF] on Friday that Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta [official website; JURIST news archive] need not be present for his whole trial for crimes against humanity. The court issued its decision in response to growing tensions [Reuters report] between the Kenyan government and the ICC regarding the court’s authority to exercise jurisdiction over Kenyan officials. The ICC also reasoned that requiring Kenyatta to be present for all proceedings may interfere with his abilities to govern:

[I]t…needs to be stressed here that the conditional excusal granted to Mr. Kenyatta in this decision is purely a matter of reasonable accommodation of the demanding functions of his office as the President of Kenya, and not merely the gratification of the dignity of his own occupation of that office.

Kenyatta’s trial is due to start in November.

Last week Kenyatta applied for a permanent stay of the proceedings [JURIST report] in his case. Earlier this month the ICC issued an arrest warrant [JURIST report] for a man accused of tampering with prosecution witnesses in a case against Kenyan Deputy President William Ruto [ICC backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. The ICC issued the warrant against Walter Barasa, whom the ICC accuses of attempting to bribe prosecution witnesses and participating in a scheme by Kenyan government officials to interfere with the prosecution. In September Ruto pleaded not guilty [JURIST report] to the charges. Also last month Kenya’s National Assembly voted to withdraw from the ICC [JURIST report; JURIST op-ed]. Scholars have made different arguments as to why Kenya’s withdrawal from the ICC would be detrimental [JURIST op-eds] to the African people.