The international criminal court (ICC) on Tuesday threw out an application by president Uhuru Kenyatta seeking to be excused from attending a status conference scheduled for October 8 at the Hague, and instead ordered him to attend the said conference in person.
President Kenyatta, through his lawyers, had filed an application to be allowed to attend the proceedings via video link so that he was able to undertake his state duties, as well as avoid the trouble of travelling all the way to the Hague.
His lawyers also wanted the status conference adjourned, arguing that Kenyatta was scheduled to attend a regional leaders meeting on the same date.
But in a 10-page ruling, the ICC judges ruled that the status conference was an important section in the proceedings which required the physical attendance of the president.
“The Chamber notes that the matters to be discussed at the Status Conference, arising from the notice and the responses thereto, directly impact the interests of the accused, of victims and of witnesses. The Chamber, by majority, finds that the requirements of justice in this case necessitate the physical presence of the accused at the Court,” the ruling read in part.
“The chamber does not find merit in the defence’s submission regarding the accused’s engagements having been planned prior to the convening of the Status Conference. Therefore, the Chamber is also not persuaded by the alternative request for an adjournment of the Status Conference.”
Political leaders allied to Kenyatta’s Jubille Alliance party had criticised the calls for the president to attend the conference in person, saying it would be a disgrace to Kenya and Kenyatta himself in his capacity as president. Some had even vowed to prevent him from going to the Hague.
If he attends, he will be the first sitting head of state to appear before the ICC.
In the ruling the judges also noted that the accused had an obligation under the Rome Statute, to attend ‘all required hearings’ at the Court.
“The Chamber considers that the accused’s obligation to attend the Status Conference arises from the terms of this summons, which remains in continuing effect. For the foregoing reasons, the chamber, by majority, hereby rejects the request and orders the accused to be present in person, at the status conference on 8 October 2014.”