ICC rejects postponement of Kenyan President hearing

BY TAI CHISHAKWE - OCTOBER 1, 2014

The International Criminal Court (ICC) on Wednesday rejected a request by Kenyan President, Uhuru Kenyatta, to postpone his appearance before the court on 8 October. The hearing aims to set a date for his trial.

Kenyatta is accused by the ICC of organising ethnic massacres that left 1 200 people dead after Kenya’s 2007 elections which the  President denies.

He is supposed to either appear before the hearing in person or via video link and has insisted he must appear in person at the Hague.

It is not clear if Kenyatta will appear before the court on 8 October as his trial has already been delayed several times.

Last year, the African Union (AU) summit in Ethiopia demanded a deferral of the trial which had been set for November 2013. The AU also agreed on a resolution stating no sitting African head of state should appear before an international court.

Kenyatta and Sudanese President, Omar al-Bashir - who is also facing charges at the ICC, joined other African leaders who have long complained that the international court unfairly targets them.

During that same summit, the AU discussed withdrawing from the ICC, but failed to get enough support.

Excuse

Kenyatta's latest excuse is that on 8 October he has other commitments in Uganda and his lawyers suggested that the hearing be postponed or that arrangements be made for him to appear via video link.

However, the ICC rejected the request, saying that the matters to be discussed were at a critical stage and directly involve the interest of the accused and victims.

"The chamber, by majority, finds that the requirements of justice in this case necessitate the physical presence of the accused in court," the ICC said in a statement.

Kenyatta's lawyers have repeatedly said the whole case should be dropped because of a lack of evidence.

Charges

In 2007, Kenyatta was a close ally of then Kenyan President, Mwai Kibaki, who was declared the winner in that year's election despite claims of fraud from his rival Raila Odinga. The election disputes soon turned violent, with targeted killings along ethnic lines, pitting members of the Kikuyu ethnic group where Kenyatta and Kibaki belongs against other communities.

Kenyatta is accused of organising an ethnic Kikuyu gang, the Mungiki sect, to attack the other rival groups.

His Vice-President, William Ruto, faces similar charges, although he was on the Odinga side during the violence.

Photo caption: HOPING FOR A NO-SHOW... Kenyan President, Uhuru Kenyatta.