Trial Chamber V(a) of the International Criminal Court (ICC) today suspended the trial of William Ruto, and Joshua Arap Sang and excused Mr. Ruto from The Hague for a week. Ruto is the Deputy President of Kenya, and in light of the recent attack in Nairobi, the court agreed with the defense request to allow him to leave and tend to official duties in Kenya.
The Office of the Prosecutor and the representatives of victims present in the court did not object to excusing Ruto from the trial, but argued against suspending the trial, the court reached this conclusion:
On 23 September 2013, Trial Chamber V(a) excused Mr Ruto from trial proceedings for one week in light of the circumstances in Kenya and subsequently decided to adjourn the trial.
The Chamber noted that the Defence for Mr Ruto has indicated an intention to file a request to the Appeals Chamber on 23 September 2013 for reconsideration of its decision on suspensive effect regarding the Prosecutor’s appeal of the decision excusing Mr Ruto from continuous presence at trial.
The trial is adjourned pending either the Appeals Chamber’s decision on the Defence’s urgent request or the expiration of the one-week excusal period, whichever comes earlier.
On 18 June 2013, Trial Chamber V(a) had issued a decision excusing Mr Ruto from being continuously physically present at trial, except for specified hearings. However the Prosecutor appealed this decision and the Appeals Chamber gave the Prosecutor’s request suspensive effect until a final decision on this appeal is made. This meant that Mr Ruto was requested to be present during all trial hearings pending the final determination on the Prosecutor’s appeal.
Ruto and Sang are charged with Crimes against Humanity including murder, deportation or forcible transfer of population and persecution in connection with post-election violence in Kenya in 2007-2008. Sang is a broadcaster, Ruto was elected Deputy President in March. Kenya’s President, Uhuru Kenyatta is also set for trial in connection with the post-election violence later this year. Both trials have faced issues with witnesses withdrawing and refusing to testify at trial.